BELFAST, Maine — City officials closed a rail trail-related real estate deal Wednesday afternoon that has long been in the making, according to Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum.
Councilors signed off at Tuesday night’s regular meeting on an agreement with the Brooks Preservation Society to purchase property rights that are associated with the rail trail, which has been in development since 2010, Slocum said.
With the deal inked, Belfast has purchased the rights to develop a parking lot, construct bathrooms and secure access to City Point Road, the terminus of the planned 2.2-mile trail. These easements and property rights cost $35,000 at the closing and additional payments of $5,000 a year for the next 15 years. The monies will be paid from a private fundraising campaign being coordinated by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust.
“Since 2010 when the city purchased this rail corridor, we’ve been on an unwavering effort to develop this trail for the community,” Slocum wrote in his manager’s report. “The agreement with Brooks Preservation Society is a crucial piece of that development and will get the city a permanent residence at that end of the trail.”
He said that the city hopes to be pulling up tracks along the rail trail next spring. Once completed, the year-round trail will follow the Passagassawakeag River and allow users to spot wildlife including eagles and seals. Ultimately, people will be able to begin a trek on the new Harbor Walk at the Belfast Boathouse and continue nearly three miles to City Point, moving along flat, level terrain the whole way.
“It will be a defining feature of the city of Belfast,” Slocum said. “The youngest child and the oldest grandparent will be able to walk down it, and enjoy the natural beauty of the upper river and connect to the downtown, the harbor and the parks.”
He said that the rail trail will be a draw for visitors and locals alike.
“This is the kind of thing that people travel to do,” Slocum said.
In other business, the council will talk about fees to rent the Belfast Boathouse on Tuesday, Oct. 15, during the next regular meeting. Slocum said that local groups and nonprofit organizations that are facing major fee hikes for civil events are requested to submit a letter to the councilors asking for a reduced rate.
Those include WERU-FM, whose rate for the annual music sale has jumped from $300 to $1,200; the Belfast Garden Club, with a $1,200 increase for its annual plant sale; Harborfest, looking at a jump from $300 to $1,600, and Weinerfest, facing an increase from $100 to $1,600.
“The council’s message was pretty clear,” Slocum said. “They’re willing to consider charging a reduced rate. They just want to consider it each time.”