Ambitious project aims to link Bangor’s hiking, running and cycling trails

Posted March 08, 2012, at 7:17 p.m.
Last modified March 09, 2012, at 5:20 a.m.
To see the full version of the Bangor trails concept plan, visit http://bdn.to/trailmap.
To see the full version of the Bangor trails concept plan, visit http://bdn.to/trailmap.

BANGOR, Maine — Lucy Quimby is a patient woman who believes slow and steady wins the race.

While there is no race to finish the entire Bangor Trails Project — the ultimate goal of which is to link all nine of Bangor’s established hiking, running and cycling trails — the effort, seven years in the making, is starting to coalesce.

“It does require such persistence, far-flung cooperation, and a consistency of effort to do something like this,” said Quimby, coordinator of the Bangor Trails Project. “We’re just a persistent bunch. That’s all I can say.”

Thanks to an eleventh-hour effort by Bangor Director of Public Services Art Morgan late last year, the efforts of Quimby and her fellow volunteers finally may pay off — in the form of a federal grant.

“We found out we had a week before the grant deadline, and Art pulled it together,” Quimby said.

If the $595,900 federal Transportation, Community and System Preservation Program grant he applied for is awarded, the first solid link in the Bangor Trails Project’s unification and extension effort could be forged as early as next summer.

“If our application’s successful, we’re going to get a pretty important piece of it done,” said Morgan.

He was referring to the project’s “trail five segment” — the area behind Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Facility that extends by Eastern Maine Community College and across Stillwater Avenue. The grant would pay for the construction of a half-mile, paved pedestrian-bicycle connector trail linking the current trails at Cascade and Saxl parks to the trails at Essex Woods.

The grant requires a 20 percent funding match — $119,180 — but that can be done with materials and labor in addition to cash. The Bangor Land Trust, which partnered with the city of Bangor to form the Bangor Trails Project, already has $20,000 raised.

“Even before the Bangor Land Trust got involved, the Keep Bangor Beautiful organization had talked to Bangor officials about having trails, so it’s been a long time,” said Quimby. “I don’t think it’ll be totally done in my lifetime.”

The project has taken so long, according to Quimby, because of an effort to leave no stone unturned on the path to a fully integrated trail system.

“We asked [for] public input on where they wanted trails and connections to existing ones and had people draw what we called ‘desire lines’ right onto maps,” she explained. “Then we used all those surveys and drew lined routes that would be the most comparable to those suggested ones.”

Quimby said the Bangor Trails Project used 12 criteria in evaluating proposed trails and connectors, as well as existing trails. The criteria included trail and road safety, ease and frequency of use, construction ability and ease, and cost and difficulty.

“From that, we came up with composite desirability scores for every one of those trail segments,” Quimby said. “We had meetings twice a month and would evaluate one or two trail segments each meeting, and there are a lot of trail segments.

“When you propose a big project like this, you have to make sure it’s been carefully thought out and not just planned by a tiny group of zealots with little outside input,” she added. “That’s what took us so long.”

The entire effort has impressed first-year City Councilor Ben Sprague, who sees similarities between the project’s goals and what he saw firsthand while attending school and working in Boston.

“This group has put in a ton of time as private citizens,” said Sprague, an occasional runner. “I’d see hundreds if not thousands of people each day running on trails in Boston near the Charles River, from the Museum of Science out to Watertown Square.”

Sprague, noting that people are becoming more exercise- and health-conscious, said he would like to see the effort eventually stretch beyond Bangor’s borders.

“I’d love to see running trails go beyond into other communities like Orono, such as from the University of Maine to downtown Bangor,” he said. “I’m thinking the city needs to market this and use it as another asset to give people another reason to visit or live here, especially when it comes to attracting young professionals and families.”

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