PITTSFIELD, Maine — Approximately 35 people who attended a hearing about a Route 2 bridge construction plan Monday left the meeting happy after learning that the project will be done on an accelerated schedule and without blocking the only public access to Sibley Pond.
After a sparsely attended meeting in March, concern has surfaced in town that the replacement of a bridge near the Pittsfield-Canaan town line would eliminate an “unofficial” boat launch used by the public for some 70 years. The launch, which is not overseen by the state or any government agency, is located on an old right-of-way that was used when the Sibley Pond Bridge was constructed in 1939. That bridge is now in need of replacement, and project managers plan to reroute traffic on busy Route 2 through the old right-of-way.
“The boat launch, although small, has served literally over 100,000 people [since 1939],” wrote Pittsfield Mayor Timothy Nichols to Maine Department of Transportation officials on June 3. “It is the only boat access for the entire town of Pittsfield for Sibley Pond.”
The town has been exploring the possibility of building a more formal boat launch somewhere on Sibley Pond, but has yet to secure any funding or determine whether Sibley Pond residents want that. Judging by comments made at Monday’s meeting, they don’t.
“A big public boat launch would be a disaster for that pond,” said one audience member, prompting nods and agreement from numerous others. At least one person, Brady Scott of Pittsfield, disagreed and said he supported more use of the pond.
Shawn McDougall of Lane Construction Corp. of Orono, the firm that will construct the $7.9 million bridge, said boat access to the pond will not be interrupted at any time during the project. One way to accomplish that might be to build a temporary access point elsewhere, such as near the old bridge.
Town Manager Kathryn Ruth said that if the town becomes involved in building a new launch, it would be small-scale. “The town is not looking for a huge boat access,” she said. “We just want to ensure that there’s public access to Sibley Pond.”
McDougall said the project will begin next month, beginning with building the right-of-way around the construction area. Construction of the new bridge is scheduled to start next spring, wrapping up in late fall 2011. The detour area will be returned to its present state and the old bridge will be removed before crews leave the area, he said.
McDougall said pile-driving associated with the project will be loud at times for area residents, but that all work will be done during the day. In response to comments from residents about road noise, especially from passing trucks, Leanne Timberlake of the DOT said a sound-dampening wall on the pond side of the bridge is being considered.