Portland gets bridge to span Stroudwater River, link trails

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PORTLAND — Parks Director Ethan Hipple said it isn’t every day someone offers to sell the city a bridge.

It was too good to pass up (and it wasn’t in Brooklyn).

“This a great example of different departments, a nonprofit and developers working together to make a cool project happen,” Hipple said July 26 about the 70-foot, 9-ton span that will link the Stroudwater River Trail with new open space across the river at Stroudwater Preserve.

The bridge came from a Washington Avenue property owner, who prefers anonymity. He asked the city if they wanted it, Hipple said.

The query came as the rezoning of 55 acres at 1700-1714 Westbrook St. was being approved by city councilors. The changes on land that was largely the former Camelot Farm allowed developers Mike Barton and Nate Libby to build a subdivision with as many as 98 single-family homes and another 25 townhouses.

Their plans also include keeping 25 acres of open space bordered by the Stroudwater River. Some land was deeded to Portland Trails, the rest to the city, which is expected to turn it over to the Land Bank.

Hipple and Portland Trails Director Kara Wooldrik saw a chance the link the Stroudwater River Trail that is part of the existing Portland Trail network with the open space across the river – and beyond.

“It was just exciting, there is not great public access along that river,” Wooldrik said July 25.

Barton said he learned of the bridge in the spring when discussions began about how to link the trails on either side of the river.

“You can’t be prepared for it, but you are excited about how it came into alignment; we were all for it,” he said.

Barton and Libby covered the cost of shipping the bridge to Westbrook Street, it was brought over May 23 by Eastern Excavating, the contractors doing the site work for Stroudwater Preserve.

“We spent zero dollars on the bridge itself,” Hipple said, although the city did pick up legal costs associated with the transaction.

Installation will require a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and Hipple said city staff is already working with DEP engineers on where the bridge will span the river and what abutments will be needed.

Because Stroudwater Trail is on land owned by UNUM, Wooldrik said the Portland Trails easement will need revisions. There is no estimate on an installation cost, so fundraising has not started.

“If we were to set out with a goal to put a bridge over the Stroudwater River, we would have to raise a lot of money,” Hipple said.

In Scarborough, the estimated cost to bridge the Nonesuch River over existing abutments is $120,000, according to Nancy Borg of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

Hipple and Wooldrik said a winter installation is most likely and desirable.

“We need the least impact for putting it in,” Wooldrik said. “We need a big crane.”

Development at Stroudwater Preserve has been a contentious process. The zoning change passed by a 5-4 vote last year and was challenged in a referendum and suit in Cumberland County Superior Court.

The referendum failed Nov. 6, and the suit was later dropped by plaintiffs. Site work for the first phase of development began last month, with seven house lots coming.

“Whatever people think of the new development, the bridge and open space are the silver lining from the Parks perspective,” Hipple said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

City officials and Portland Trails expect this bridge will be installed by winter over the Stroudwater River to connect public trails.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.