UNITY — What could be more appropriate for a National Trails Day event than a sneak peek at a CommUnity Trail bridge project that has been more than a decade in the planning?
“We have been working on and anticipating this critical link in our envisioned CommUnity Trail system for so long that it is hard to believe that it is actually time to ‘cross that bridge,’” said Tess Woods, executive director of Unity Barn Raisers, the group that has been instrumental in locating the funding for the project and overseeing the planning and building of the bridge. The bridge has been funded by federal pedestrian and bicycle trail funds administered through the Maine Department of Transportation and additional funding from Unity College.
“So many have shown support for this project, from Congressman Michaud at the state level to the Unity Foundation at the local level; it has been such a pleasure to work with them all.” Woods said. “We never would have reached this point without their support.”
The bridge is seen at the local level as an important link for Unity’s existing downtown CommUnity Trail System to the Unity College Trail System. The Barn Raisers and Unity College, working in partnership with other local organizations such as the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust, the Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance and MOFGA, hope to begin work with local landowners to find a way to extend the system to the MOFGA Fairgrounds, the Mount View School Complex and ultimately to Frye Mountain Nature Preserve, where other groups are working on building trails connecting the preserve and the coast.
The local partners for the expanded trail system are equally excited. According to Buck O’Herin, executive director of Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance, “The CommUnity Trail bridge, in addition to being a beautiful and impressive bridge, is an important link in an exciting regional trails initiative that in the near future will link the town of Unity with Frye Mountain and eventually with coastal communities.”
“A pedestrian trail connecting Unity with the coast is a powerful vision but one that can be realized with community and volunteer support,” explained Jennifer Irving, executive director of the Sebasticook Regional Land Trust. “We’re excited about this trails partnership, which promises to raise awareness of the beauty and importance of our natural areas and generate support for regional conservation activities.”
“Long in the planning, this bridge and connecting trail from Unity College’s perspective is a tremendous link for the students, faculty and staff,” said Tom Mullin, associate professor of parks, recreation and ecotourism at Unity College. “A safer walkway that meets Americans with Disabilities standards from the college to the Unity downtown demonstrates the college’s and community’s commitment to sustainable development for the region.”
The bridge sneak peek will be part of Unity Barn Raisers’ 15th Annual Meeting, to be held at noon Saturday, June 4, at the Unity Community Center, 32 School St. Other activities will take place as part of the celebration from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., including a farmers market, live music, and local business and organization displays, plus a fundraiser lunch featuring local products.
For more information to to reserve display space for a local business or organization at the event, call Tess Woods at 948-9005.