Planned Belfast Harbor Walk will be major city attraction, city official says

Posted Dec. 30, 2011, at 9:36 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The $1.5 million Belfast Harbor Walk will stretch more than half a mile and link such local must-see sights as the Armistice Bridge, Belfast Harbor and Steamboat Landing park for amblers, walkers, cyclists and joggers.

But Belfast City Planner Wayne Marshall said that the long-planned-for pathway will do even more than that.

“I think this is really going to benefit folks who live in Belfast. It’s providing a safe, well-lighted and accessible pathway along one of the most active areas in town,” he said Friday. “Similarly, for visitors, we think this is going to be one of the things that attract people to Belfast. It will be a good complement to the phenomenal parks and the real working waterfront that Belfast has.”

Councilors last week reached consensus on the major design elements of the project, which is slated to begin construction in May.

The 3,800-foot-long walkway has been divided into four sections, Marshall said. The first begins at the Armistice Bridge and stretches past the new Front Street Shipyard project, with part of the walkway extending over the water, adjacent to one of the shipyard’s buildings. The next portion will run from Thompson’s Wharf past a row of restaurants and retail shops and end up at the boat harbor. The third extends from the harbor past the Consumer Fuels property to Miller Street, and the last runs all the way to Steamboat Landing and the Belfast Boathouse.

Although the project is estimated to cost $1.5 million, Marshall said that to date, the city has secured just over $1 million to bring it to fruition.

It will be funded through a combination of sources, including a $250,000 grant from the Maine Department of Transportation, $150,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant Program, $400,000 from Communities for Maine’s Future and $240,000 so far from the Belfast City Council.

“We’re not exactly there,” Marshall said. “But [the costs] are still estimates. Estimates will be refined.”

He expects that most of the construction will take place in under two months, with the walkway completed in the 2012 calendar year.

The city will work to complete the two ends of the walkway first. Near the Armistice Bridge, the city will construct a 13-space parking lot that will be organized and landscaped — in short, the opposite of what exists there now, according to the planner. The landscaping will separate the city-owned parking from the Front Street Shipyard buildings.

“Things needed to become more orderly and defined,” he said.

People will be able to walk along the water’s edge and get a good view of the large-boat action on a wooden pier that will be built by shipyard officials. From there, the walkway moves toward the harbor, first as a strip of asphalt and then as a concrete path that will wend along the railroad right of way from the Belfast Boatyard to the Weathervane Seafood Restaurant.

This section will be 10 to 12 feet wide, Marshall said.

At the harbor, the pathway will change back to asphalt and will move through the Heritage Park, then join Front Street to extend to Steamboat Landing park.

Right now, there’s no sidewalk or lighting along that portion of Front Street, and Marshall said that the effect can be less than welcoming. The new pathway there will be 8 feet wide and separated from the roadway by vegetation.

Finally, pedestrians who wish to head to the waterfront Steamboat Landing park can get there by taking a new set of concrete stairs that are designed for easy access. There may be a second set of stairs, too, Marshall said, but that design element has not been made final.

In the park, workers will replace the thick stand of tall cedars with a berm landscaped with native vegetation, he said.

Throughout the length of the Harbor Walk, the disparate elements will be tied together by good street lighting, benches and informational signs.

“I think it’s going to be a real rarity along the Maine coast,” Marshall said. “You’ll be able to walk through great waterfront parks, a densely developed restaurant and retail area and then through active boatyards and boat building operations. And you’ll be able to do it in 15 minutes.”

When pedestrians and cyclists continue on to the Armistice Bridge, they can take in views of both the harbor and the Passagassawakeag River, he said.

“It’s all tied together in one compact area. It’s the real thing. What’s been lacking is something like a path to pull it all together,” Marshall said.

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