BUCKSPORT, Maine — The town has developed a plan to link the three existing trail systems providing about 9 miles of walking trails running from the waterfront to Silver Lake.
The town has been working for more than 20 years to develop the trails: the mile-long waterfront path, the 2.5-mile Miles Lane trails and the 4 miles at the town’s Silver Lake property. For the past several years, town officials have talked about finding a way to link those properties.
According to Town Manager Roger Raymond, the three trails provide different walking opportunities for residents. The waterfront path is a flat, paved walk along the Penobscot River; the Miles Lane trail system is a wide, groomed trail of crusher dust; the Silver Lake trails are more rural providing access to the 78 acres of town-owned property including one path that runs along the lake shore.
“We’ve been talking about ways to connect all three of the trail systems,’’ Raymond said. “This will provide about 9 miles of connected trails for our citizens to enjoy.’’
The proposed plan, which still has to be reviewed by the full town council, would add about a mile of connector trails to link the three trail systems.
The easiest section will be the link between the Silver Lake and Miles Lane trails, Raymond said. The plan calls for the connection to use Central Street, where the town added paved shoulders during a recent road improvement project, and then down the Race Course Road. There will need to be some work done along Race Course Road, including adding paved shoulders to a section of the road.
“We’ll also have to build a short piece along Race Course Road to connect to the Miles Lane trails,” Raymond said. “We also plan to add a half-mile loop [to the Miles Lane trails].”
The new loop would follow a portion of the old racetrack from which Race Course Road gets its name. The town has an application in to the state Department of Conservation for grant funding for the project, but Raymond said the town would build the loop regardless.
The second link will be a little harder to accomplish, he said. The town had planned to run a trail from the Miles Lane trail near Broadway, down an undeveloped section of Miles Lane to Main Street.
“We didn’t get a very positive reaction to that,’’ Raymond said. “That piece is narrow and property owners were concerned that the trail would be too close to their homes.’’
Instead, the town’s recreation committee recommended that the town pursue two connector paths. One would continue from the Miles Lane trail near the health center out the Broadway Extension to connect with Park Street, the road that runs from Main Street (Route 1) beside the Family Dollar store mall. The other connection would come farther out of town, and extend a section of the Miles Lane trail out the power line and connect to Park Street.
According to Raymond, Park Street is paved only a short distance past the mall, but the area has been cleared in anticipation of extending the road at some point. Both plans would require an easement from the property owner, and both would connect to Main Street, and use the existing sidewalk down to Hinks Street. The connector would cross Main Street there and require a new section of sidewalk on the opposite side of the street to connect with the existing waterfront path.
The Maine DOT is willing to consider installing a traffic light at Hinks Street to make it easier for walkers to cross over to the other side of the trail. That also would provide better access to the Buck Cemetery, a popular attraction for visitors to the town.
There is no timetable for construction of the connectors. Raymond said they likely would be done in sections with the Silver Lake-Miles Lane connection being done first. The town will seek grant funding for those projects, he said.