Topsham celebrates extension of bike-walk trail

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TOPSHAM — The town recently celebrated an extension to a bicycle-pedestrian trail that was years in the making.

The new trail runs from Town Hall at 100 Main St., across the street and around the Wright-Pierce office, then east through a forest to Community Drive, parallel to the U.S. Route 196 Coastal Connector.

Work on the approximately 0.75-mile segment, primarily completed last December, will continue this fall with landscaping to provide a buffer from the Coastal Connector and replacement of trees.

“It’s just a better planting season; we don’t want to be doing it mid-summer,” Town Planner Rod Melanson said in an interview June 21, noting that the town is working with abutting landowners on the landscaping design, with assistance from Wright-Pierce.

“This was a very long process, getting this actually installed,” Melanson said, referring to funding issues due to competing projects around the state, and noting that the project had five different Maine Department of Transportation managers during the life of the decade-long project.

Melanson recalled Perry Jordan, a resident of the Highlands retirement community who walked his Welsh corgi every day on Route 196 to the Tim Horton’s restaurant, regardless of weather.

“He was so looking forward to this thing opening; he knew all about it,” Melanson said of the new path.

Jordan died prior to the groundbreaking. His family donated a bench in his memory along the path.

Construction cost about $680,000, with 80 percent funded by the state, and about $50,000 in private donations.

The first segment of the four-phase project runs along Monument Place from the Topsham Fair Mall to Town Hall.

The town will extend the path in front of Town Hall by widening the sidewalk from 6 to 10 feet, and connecting to the existing path on Monument Place, Melanson explained. The rapid flashing beacons, located at the new crosswalk to the path, help pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Main Street much more safely, he added.

“This whole segment, from the Topsham Fair Mall all the way to Community Drive, will be one uninterrupted shared use path, at the end of the summer,” Melanson said.

The next phase, for which preliminary design work has been completed, could start across the Coastal Connector at Village Drive and run to the Topsham Crossing neighborhood.

Planned future segments could include a bridge over the Coastal Connector and paths to the Androscoggin River Path and Mt. Ararat High School.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Topsham held a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month to commemorate the expansion of a bicycle-pedestrian trail in town. Town Manager Rich Roedner cuts the ribbon; to his right is John Rodrigue, project manager with the Maine Department of Transportation. Town Planner Rod Melanson is at far right.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.