A mural begun by Woolwich Community School students earlier this month in a tunnel under Route 1 was stopped recently after the Maine Department of Transportation said the paint would make it difficult for staff to inspect the concrete.

WOOLWICH, Maine — Students in the midst of painting a mural to cover graffiti in a pedestrian tunnel under Route 1 were disappointed — as were town officials — when the Maine Department of Transportation told them earlier this month to hold their paint brushes, because the mural could not go forward.

But that disappointment could quickly dissipate in a splash of color after MDOT staff reversed that decision on Tuesday.

State officials initially informed town officials that if the walls were painted, stress cracks in the concrete would not be visible during inspections, Dale Chadbourne, vice chairman of the Woolwich Board of Selectmen, said Tuesday.

But on Tuesday, the MDOT acknowledged it had not communicated to the town that such painting is prohibited, and the state will allow the mural to proceed, John Buxton, maintenance engineer and deputy chief engineer of the MDOT told the Bangor Daily News.

“It was kind of us dropping the ball a little bit,” Buxton said. “I originally told [them] no, but I checked our communication tree and we weren’t as good as we should have been and kind of fumbled the ball.”

But Buxton said the Woolwich mural will be the only such painting allowed in the state.

Woolwich Selectwoman Allison Hepler worked with Woolwich Central School art teacher Laura Devin to design the mural, which would feature the children’s handprints as leaves on trees, according to a town newsletter.

“I can’t imagine they would take that mural down,” Chadbourne said earlier on Tuesday. “That’s stupid. There’s got to be some common sense in the state. How were they going to see [the cracks] through the graffiti? They never came down and cleaned that off.”

Chadbourne said the Woolwich Community School students “put their heart and soul” into the mural.

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