BELFAST — A public right of way to the Passagassawakeag River on the city’s east side was formally dedicated with a granite marker earlier this month.
Representatives of the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, Waterfall Arts and a number of residents were on hand for the installation of the Upper Bridge East Rangeway monument on the first Saturday in October. The pair of granite spires were funded in part by the city and grants from the NLT Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, and the Davis Conservation Foundation.
The city has 17 rights of way, or range ways, that were established by its founders in the 1700s. They were designed to give all residents access to the banks of the river or the shore of Belfast Bay and can be found at intervals from one end of the city to the other.
In the ensuing centuries, many of the range ways were neglected and became tangled in undergrowth or encroached upon by private landowners. In the mid-1990s, the city formed a committee to research and reclaim the range ways and record the city’s ownership in the Waldo County Registry of Deeds. Most all are now marked with signs and the Upper Bridge East Rangeway is the second to be graced with a piece of art. A similar sculpture was installed at the Allyn Street Rangeway a year ago.
“This is very satisfying,” said city resident Harry Burns, who served on the range way committee. “It’s been a challenge. I thought when they were finally recorded that they would get them open a lot sooner than this. It’s been a lot for work for all involved.”
The Upper Bridge East granite marker was mined at Four Fossils Granite Quarry on Vinalhaven and selected by artist and stone cutter Douglas Coffin of Stockton Springs and Martha Piscuskas, creative director of Waterfall Arts. It was cut into two sections at the quarry and taken by ferry and truck to the installation site off Kaler Road that morning. It is the same site where an earlier bridge spanning the river was located. One piece of the monument weighs 5 tons, the other 4.
“It was a single stone,” Coffin said of the marker. “As it turned out it was going to be split right where we wanted it to be split because there was already a crack in it and it went that way.” He said the stone “gate” suggests “walking from the present into the past, through these ancient range ways, through the stone that Belfast is built on, from land towards the water that Belfast first thrived on.”
Belfast resident Skip Pendleton, who paddled his kayak up the river to the dedication, said he was glad the range way had been reclaimed for use by the public. He noted that it was an ideal location to gain access to the river for fishing, boating or sightseeing.
“It’s a beautiful spot,” Pendleton said.
Piscuskas said the project also was supported by the Maine Birding Trail, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Pedestrian, Hiking and Biking Committee. She said the installation would be a permanent reminder of the public’s rights of access to the water. Piscuskas said the various groups were willing to work with abutters along the city’s other range ways to restore access and install markers.
“We’ve all worked together to make this happen,” she said. “If some neighborhood wanted to come forward with a plan we’d be more than willing to work with them.”
Waterfall Arts applied for grants for the range ways two years ago and was awarded $12,000 for the markers. Piscuskas said Waterfall Arts also produced a video of the Allyn Street installation and it can be viewed at http://www.waterfallarts.org.