Trail extension among Topsham Community Fund proposals

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TOPSHAM — A bicycle-pedestrian trail, Lower Village park and roundabout, and pedestrian crossings were among the suggestions residents made to town staff at a Nov. 12 meeting on the town’s Community Fund.

Fourteen members of the public attended, setting a record for Community Fund meetings, according to John Shattuck, the economic and community development director.

The fund has been allocated the past few years toward extending a bike and pedestrian trail. Voters at Town Meeting approved $5,000 in 2012, and $10,000 each in 2013 and 2014, for the extension. Another $10,000 approved at this year’s Town Meeting has not been earmarked for any specific project, nor will the $10,000 to be proposed at next year’s gathering.

“Because of the timing, the bike path is the only thing we’ve worked on funding since this was created,” Shattuck said in an interview Nov. 13.

The existing trail stretches east along Monument Place, from Topsham Fair Mall Road to Main Street. The extension would start around Town Hall on Main Street, between Gibbs Oil and the Wright-Pierce office, parallel to Route 196, before ending at Community Way.

The project had been anticipated to cost about $750,000, of which DOT is funding 80 percent, with the rest coming from the town, Town Planner Rod Melanson said Tuesday.

Rising construction expenses in recent years, as well as rerouting a small part of the trail due to the location of the new Midcoast Medical Group office on Wellness Way, have pushed the estimate to about $775,000, according to Melanson.

The proposed cost is being refined as the town works toward a final design, and is still subject to change, Melanson said.

Contributing to the town’s share is $50,000 from a combination of community development funds from the 2012-2014 Town Meetings, and $25,000 left over from the town’s Quality of Life fund, which the Community Fund replaced.

Another $60,000 is coming from other funding, such as open space and impact fees and the Whittier Fund bequest, with the remaining $50,000 derived from a fundraising effort by the Community Fund Committee, Shattuck has said.

Other projects

With funding about complete for the trail extension, town staff looked for input at the Nov. 12 meeting on other projects to address in the future.

Pedestrian crossings along Main Street, particularly at Wilson Street and Route 196, were among the suggestions. A roundabout in the heavily-traveled Lower Village, at the intersection of Summer Street, the Bowdoin Mill entrance and Main Street, was another, as well as a Lower Village park and exercise stations or playgrounds along the bicycle paths.

Other suggestions for the town, according to Assistant Town Planner Carol Eyerman, were for long-term staffing and maintenance expenses or additional infrastructure, and sticking to a small number of projects at a time.

“Last year, to a smaller degree, and this year and going forward we’re increasingly going to be soliciting more participation from the public, probably throughout the year rather than just end of year,” Shattuck said.

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

Extension of a bicycle and pedestrian trail in Topsham has been the focus of the town’s Community Fund in recent years. The existing trail is shown in white, at left, with the proposed extension in yellow. The final design has yet to be completed.

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.