Path to little-known South Portland beach to be improved

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A deteriorating path connecting High Street with Davidson’s Beach in Ferry Village is slated to be replaced this fall. 

The city’s responsibility for replacing the aging pathway, which was installed in 1992, stems from a right-of-way easement granted by the Ferry Village Landing Condominium Association, which is on the abutting property at 215 High St. 

Had it not been for the forethought of the people of the neighborhood who negotiated to establish the easement, residents today may not have access at all, Rick Towle, the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department director, said. 

City councilors on Monday awarded the job to Scarborough-based Keenan Excavation Co.

They also unanimously supported a technology upgrade for Kaler and Skillin elementary schools, as well as the purchase of iPads for all kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms in the city.

The asphalt and timber beach access path will be replaced with re-purposed granite risers, aluminum steps and engineered soil, similar to what’s used in Mill Creek Park, Towle said.

The cost of nearly $30,000 will be funded entirely through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, City Manager Jim Gailey said at the Aug. 3 City Council meeting. 

The beach is largely used by residents of Ferry Village, Towle said, and many residents of the city may not even know it exists. Those who do know, may be confused about its name. 

“What is the proper name?” Councilor Patti Smith asked councilors at Monday’s meeting. 

Councilor Tom Blake, who lives three houses away from the pathway, set the record straight, and acknowledged that he has heard many people refer to it as Ferry Beach (which is in Scarborough), just because it’s in Ferry Village. 

Regardless, “it’s absolutely delightful to see people using this beach in South Portland. I’m seeing people swimming there everyday now, (and) seeing kayak put-ins on a daily basis.”

Having walkable access to the beach is important for Ferry Village residents, Towle said. 

“The intent is to continue to provide the whole neighborhood with waterfront experience,” Towle said. “It’s a really small project, but it means a lot to the people of the neighborhood.”

School technology

Money for the school improvements will come from the School Department’s technology budget. 

The council approved the purchase of 60 iPad minis and 15 MacBook Air laptop computers, at a cost of about $31,000. 

Technology upgrades at Skillen and Kaler, at a cost of approximately $62,000, will include strengthening wireless access points to allow more devices to connect at each school. The infrastructure was last outfitted in 2008.

“By dismantling the existing wireless at Skillen and Kaler, it will free up more access points so more devices can connect at Dyer, Brown and Small,” said Andrew Wallace, director of technology for the district. “We’re just re-purposing the parts so we can fill in gaps, so we can re-bolster coverage at other schools.

Blake said he thought it was odd that the two schools experiencing changes “are the two schools that have academic issues.”

Closing the achievement gap is part of the reason for the decision, Wallace said. At both schools, “we’re seeing increased uses of responses to intervention (which involves) helping specific kids with specific applications and programs that are, in part, being accessed by iPads,” he said.

“Our approach to closing achievement gaps is putting in pretty intensive computer programs that monitor student progress over time,” Wallace added, and stronger wireless equipment will better facilitate the work.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA

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South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.