Town leads effort to raise $1 million to complete trail

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The Town of Scarborough is working with the Eastern Trail Alliance and Bicycle Coalition of Maine to complete a 1.6-mile section of off-road trail in Scarborough.

It is the only remaining off-road gap between downtown Saco and Bug Light in South Portland. The funds will be used to build two bridges – one over the Nonesuch River near Eastern Road and the other over the Pan Am Railways tracks near Pleasant Hill Road. Riders, runners and bike commuters will be able to access 16 contiguous offroad miles once complete. The “Close the Gap” campaign has already raised $2.8 million toward the goal of $3.8 million.

“Timing is critical because we’ve raised the majority of the funds but time is running out,” said Town Manager Tom Hall.

The Maine Department of Transportation has committed $1.55 million calling it the “highest priority” project of its kind in the state. The project sponsors have until Dec. 1 to raise the money and if they can’t, the project could stall or funds could be diverted to other projects.

“It would be heartbreaking to see that happen. We’ve been working on this for over 10 years and are on the cusp of it becoming a reality,” Hall said.

Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System has committed $1.1 million, Eastern Trail Alliance has offered a dollar-for-dollar match of up to $50,000 and Iberdrola has committed $25,000 with the offer to increase contributions as the project matures. The balance has come from municipalities, corporate and nonprofit partners and in-kind services in the way of construction material and labor.

“Given how invested the state, the region and the residents of Greater Portland are, we know that there is abundant support but we still need help,” said Carole Brush, executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

The Eastern Trail extends 65 miles from South Portland to Kittery and travels through Maine woods, tidal marshes and Maine villages. It is part of the 2,900-mile East Coast Greenway that spans from Maine to Florida. More than 100,000 Mainers and out-of-state visitors who enjoy this trail contribute more than $1 million in economic benefits to southern Maine each year.

To make a contribution visit www.easterntrail.org.

2016-05-13 / Community

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