• Patrick Gabrion

Merrymeeting Trail update

In an April 5 posting, I wrote about finishing up many of my bicycle rides on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, and the benefits of doing so. Along with allowing me the opportunity to cool down and relax, it's also quiet and peaceful, and the scenery is pleasant on the eyes.


In essence, the blog piece was about the big push to enhance this wonderful asset. Legislation before the current Maine Legislature (LD 1141) would direct the Maine Department of Transportation to construct the Merrymeeting Trail from Gardiner to Topsham.


The proposed 25-mile walking and biking path would link up with the Kennebec River Rail Trail (serving Augusta-Hallowell-Farmingdale-Gardiner) and the Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path (serving Brunswick-West Bath-Bath). With the addition of the village areas of Richmond and Bowdoinham, more than 80,000 people live in the communities that would be served by the proposed trail. It would be built on top of the existing railroad bed.


Maine Rep. Charlotte Warren of Hallowell is the chief sponsor of the bill. In April, Warren said, "I've seen how bike trails can generate economic development here on the Kennebec River Rail Trail. A 25-mile trail could make central Maine a biking destination."


Just like a bike, the legislation is on the move. A public hearing on LD 1141 has been conducted, where nearly 15 people/organizations testified in favor of the bill and one voiced opposition to the measure. A work session is possible for next week.


In the meantime, the idea has been endorsed by the selectmen of Richmond, Bowdoinham, and Topsham, and the city government of Gardiner. Hallowell officials will consider it this coming Monday night. And 400 groups and people have signed an online petition backing the trail.


As I stated in the previous posting, the positives of this proposal are enormous. They include:

* Safety for cyclists and walkers

* The opportunity to bike to work

* Growing Maine's outdoor recreation industry

* Strengthen the downtowns of the communities connected to the trails

* Support better health

* Showing off Merrymeeting Bay — the largest freshwater tidal bay in the Northeast


For the past decade, a group of municipal and recreational interests have been planning this project. And the trail also has been endorsed by more than 24 organizations, including the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, land trusts, bike clubs and others.


LD 1141 is co-sponsored by Sen. Eloise Vitelli, D-Sagadahoc, and Reps. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham, Thom Harnett, D-Gardiner, Allison Hepler, D-Woolwich, and Denise Tepler, D-Topsham. Please contact them to show your support for this important — and beneficial — proposal.

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