YARMOUTH — As momentum builds to construct a six-mile mountain bike trail network along the Central Maine Power Co. transmission lines, neighbors are expressing concerns about the West Side Trail Alliance project.
About a dozen people attended the first neighborhood meeting on June 29 at a barn across from the Fels-Grove Farm Preserve parking lot. The information session, led by Dan Ostrye of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, was an opportunity for neighbors living between Drinkwater Point Road and Princes Point Road to learn more, see maps, ask questions and address their concerns about the project.
The West Side Trail Alliance includes organizations dedicated to building trails from Wyman Station to the railroad tracks near the Applewood subdivision. The group is comprised of volunteers from the Bicycle and Pedestrian, Parks and Land, Sports and Recreation committees, as well as Yarmouth Community Services and the Engineering Department.
Other contributing organizations include the Portland Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine and the Healthy Casco Bay Partnership.
Ostrye said the process of notifying abutters and discussing the project with them was not only a directive from the Town Council when it approved the project, but vital for the trail organizers.
While only about 2 feet wide, some of the trails along the first section from Drinkwater Point and Princes Point roads pass close to residential property. The trail incorporates turns and grade changes to control speed and is often determined by the terrain, he said.
“I’m aware that we are doing something in someone’s back yard. It’s important to get it right,” Ostrye said. “We want to hear what they have to say. For them, it is dealing with the unknown – it’s the ultimate unknown – and that’s what generates a lot of angst and concern.”
One abutter, Jeffrey Verrill of Morton Road, said his concerns relate to several unknowns: hours of operation, parking issues, use at night, dogs, effect on property values and noise.
Anne Verrill said she is not in favor of people using her backyard to access the trails and is opposed parking along Drinkwater Road.
“I’m not opposed to (the project), I just don’t want people to have access from there,” she said.
Other residents, like Bill Davis of Princes Point Road, voiced concern about the trail weaving in and out of the buffer between their homes and the CMP lines. Davis said he did not want a line of vision from his home to the trail and asked if the trail could be moved in one area near his property line.
While Ostrye said the trail plan was constructed to offer riders and hikers variety and shade from the sun, he said he is willing to work with the landowners to modify the plan and accommodate their needs and concerns.
Princes Point Road resident Holly Guy was concerned about the potential dangers associated with recreational users and hunters using the trails at the same time.
Ostrye said appropriate signs would be posted on the trails, but also encouraged people who use the trails to dress appropriately.
Jim Tasse, educational director of the Maine Bicycle Association, said hunters and bikers co-exist on many trails throughout Maine.
“Bikers run across hunters on rides, but appropriate signage is important to notify all users of the property,” he said.
Bruce Soule of Princes Point Road was concerned about dogs on the trail and wanted to make sure there would be signs alerting trail users of their proximity to private residences. Other residents were concerned about people using the trail as a place to gather at night and the potential for noise disturbance.
Ostrye reassured residents that the trails would be maintained and appropriate signs would be erected at no cost to the taxpayers. He said fundraising has already started and he has been overwhelmed with community support.
“Our committee is all about collaboration,” he said. “This group of people will not build trails and then run away. We are in it for the long haul. We have a lot riding on getting this right.”
He said safety vehicles could access the trail in case of emergency and said he would encourage various groups to adopt segments of the trail for clean-up, signs and maintenance.
Meetings similar to the one held last week will take place for every segment of the trail, Ostrye said.
“Talking with the abutters in every section is the right thing to do,” he said. “While these meetings don’t convince or win over people very often, it is important to have an open discussion. We just ask to be judged on what happens and the outcome of the trail. These meetings will allow us to address their concerns as they come up.”
Ostrye said trails will be cleared later this month along the section between Drinkwater and Princes Point roads. Another abutter meeting will be scheduled for the next section of the trail in the fall.