BUCKSPORT, Maine— The town is developing plans to extend and connect existing trails and walkways that, when completed, would create a connected trail system more than seven miles long.
Town councilors recently agreed to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for the walking trails and for the extension of the 2¼-mile Miles Lane Trail, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond.
“We’re looking to expand the Miles Lane Trail by a half-mile on property we won adjacent to the Bucks estate property, which we purchased several years ago,” Raymond said Friday.
The engineer will identify a potential route for the Miles Lane extension and create a master plan for the trail to identify future development and connections for the town’s three trail systems. In addition to the Miles Lane Trail, the town has developed a trail system on the town-owned property at Silver Lake and the waterfront walkway along the shore of the Penobscot River.
The Miles Lane Trail extends to the Race Course Road, which is across from the town’s Silver Lake property, Raymond said.
Town officials have been considering the expansion and connection of the trails for some time now. Raymond pointed out that several years ago, when the town continued the waterfront walkway under the Bucksport-Verona Island bridge, the project was extended along Route 1, past the Hannaford supermarket, so it could connect to the town’s 33-foot right of way near Dunkin’ Donuts, which runs from Main Street to Broadway, where the Miles Lane Trail begins.
“We’re looking at that as a potential area, but we’ll look at other areas as well,” he said.
When the town recently did work on Central Street, crews paved the shoulders of the road in order to provide a safe area to walk along that road, Raymond said. Any trail connections likely will include a portion of Central Street, he said.
The trails have become a very popular addition to the town, according to Raymond.
“The citizens like to walk and this gives them an opportunity to do that,” he said. “It helps improve the quality of life in town and it supplements activities at the school. It works out nice.”
The waterfront walkway draws residents and visitors to the downtown area, and in recent years, the Miles Lane Trail has seen a lot of activity.
“That trail extends through the wooded area of town and it connects all of our school properties, so schoolchildren can walk the trails to school,” he said.
The trail also is used by the cross-country teams and by residents, especially those who need to walk after undergoing medical procedures, he said.
“It really is being used quite a lot,” Raymond said. “It has become almost as popular as the waterfront walk.”
The town has applied for a grant from the Bureau of Parks and Lands for the half-mile extension, and one of the tasks will be to obtain the environmental permits required.
If the grant application succeeds, the town plans to have the highway crews begin clearing the new trail during the winter. If all goes well, he said, the new section of trail could be open to the public next summer.
In a related project, the town also hired a landscape architect to develop plans for the western end of the waterfront walkway, closest to the mill. Raymond said the town wants to create something at that end to make it more attractive for visitors and residents who use the walkway.
Although the walkway has been very popular, Raymond said one criticism has been there is nothing on the trail for younger children.
“We’re also looking to develop something there for the youngsters who accompany their parents,” he said.