BELFAST, Maine — The city’s long-planned-for waterfront walkway is a lot closer to being constructed, thanks to a $400,000 grant from Communities for Maine’s Future.
The money will be added to a total pot of $1.04 million that has been cobbled together from funding sources that include the Maine Department of Transportation, the city of Belfast and the federal Community Development Block Grant program.
Now that the cash is in hand, the city will start to move forward on construction of the initial phase of the Belfast Harbor Walk. The goal is to have a well-lit, safe asphalt walkway that will extend 3,700 feet from the city-owned Boathouse at Steamboat Landing to the Armistice Bridge on the Passagassawakeag River, according to Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall.
“Our hope is to have construction starting in the spring,” he said Friday.
Belfast City Councilor Mike Hurley said the news about the grant is very exciting.
“It’s great,” he said. “It’s really positive from a point-of-view of economic development.”
The Harbor Walk will be one more activity that residents and tourists can enjoy downtown, he said.
“People want something to do,” Hurley said. “Thank God the people of Belfast voted to save the footbridge. We’re just building on all these things.”
City residents voted a dozen years ago to save the then-crumbling footbridge, which has since been restored and renamed.
The Harbor Walk is another such long-discussed project, with the city manager saying in 2009 that he hoped it would be constructed by the following spring. That didn’t happen. But changes have occurred in recent years, most notably the sale of the derelict sardine processing plant on the harbor to investors of the Front Street Shipyard. That company is now beginning to construct a boardwalk that will stretch for more than 300 feet alongside two of their buildings, allowing pedestrians to have a front-row seat for harbor activities.
Not all of the Harbor Walk is adjacent to the water, Marshall said. In areas where the city does not own a right-of-way, it will be run along Front Street. Some portions will look like a 5-foot-wide raised sidewalk with dedicated signs to let people know that they’re on the Harbor Walk. Other portions, for example the stretch near Steamboat Landing, will be separated from the road by landscaping.
The total effect should be of a walkway that is a “friendly” place 24 hours a day, Marshall said.
“Lighting is a key issue that makes the area a little friendlier for individuals,” he said.
The project now needs to go through a formal design process, after the city council approved a preliminary design plan at Tuesday’s regular meeting. Marshall said he expects a preliminary design report to be complete by Nov. 1, to receive comments from the Maine Department of Transportation by Thanksgiving and to have the public comment at a meeting held at the beginning of December.
While it’s unlikely it will be finished by summer, much of it should be usable by then, he said.
“Everybody really wants to make that happen,” Hurley said.