Money in the bank, Harbor Walk to follow

Construction of waterfront promenade to start in 2012
By Ethan Andrews | Oct 12, 2011
Photo by: Ethan Andrews A portion of the Belfast Harbor Walk being built by Front Street Shipyard in September. The lone section of the walk to be built on piers came about through negotiations between the shipyard and the city to reroute the walkway. Construction on the remainder of the Harbor Walk is expected to begin in 2012.

Belfast — With the recent award of $400,000 from Communities for Maine's Future, the city now has enough money to build a proposed waterfront pedestrian and recreational path over two years in the making. But because of conditions attached to some of the money, a groundbreaking will have to wait until next year.

City Planner Wayne Marshall estimated the surfacing, lighting and water for the largest segment of the Belfast Harbor Walk, stretching from Steamboat Landing to the footbridge, would cost roughly $1 million to complete.

The city has $1.04 million socked away following the most recent award. Contributing to that total are a $250,000 grant from the Maine Department of Transportation received in 2008 with a $240,000 contribution from the city, and a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant.

Not all of that money is in the bank, however, and Marshall said procedural hurdles to getting some of the grant money, particularly from MDOT, would slow things down.

Marshall anticipated that an environmental review through MDOT would be done by Thanksgiving, after which there would be another round of public review in Belfast. The city's landscape architects, Richardson & Associates, would then draft a final design, which Marshall said would take around two-and-a-half months and would involve primarily engineering work.

That's the basics.

The larger scope of the Harbor Walk project also includes major work on the east side of the footbridge, adding landscaping and parking on Footbridge Road. But Marshall said the city doesn't have the money to do that portion yet. Landscaping at Steamboat Landing is also recommended in the larger plan but not included in what Marshall referred to as "the basics" of the walkway.

With this continued work in mind, the city has applied for a $1.25 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Marshall called the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER III) grant "a real long shot," noting that, unlike other awards that have contributed to the Harbor Walk project, Belfast would be competing against applicants from around the country.

The last TIGER grants received $13 billion in requests, he said, of which $500 million was awarded, though Marshall said he didn't know what proportion of applicants the figure represented.

Under the initial phase of the Harbor Walk, Steamboat Landing would undergo some major changes, most notably the removal of the arbor vitae that lines the 16-foot retaining wall between Belfast Common and Steamboat Landing. Several staircases would be added at intervals to bridge the gap between the two parks.

Moving north, a sidewalk would be added to the east side of Front Street, where there is none today. At Heritage Park, the Harbor Walk would follow the railroad tracks across Main Street and through an alley at Marshall Wharf.

The walkway would continue along the waterfront into the Front Street Shipyard property with several alternate "relief" routes branching out to Front Street in the event that work at the business temporarily blocks the walkway.

North of the Shipyard's travel lift pier, the Harbor Walk would follow a new pier over the water and around the empty footprints of two former Stinson Seafood buildings, which were demolished earlier this year. The Shipyard plans to rebuild on those sites and the finished walkway would wrap around the new buildings, connecting at the north end with the footbridge.

"People will be able to be standing above the tide as it's coming in, " Marshall said. "It's a great opportunity."

The pier in front of the former Stinson site is the only section of the Harbor Walk currently under construction.

Designs show a new parking area at the entrance to the footbridge and the addition of trees and shrubs to create a visual barrier between the bridge entrance and the Shipyard.

Larger concept drawings show the Harbor Walk connecting with the proposed Passagassawakeag Greenway, a recreational trail slated follow the Belfast & Moosehead Lake Railroad corridor up the Passagassawakeag River, where it would connect with hiking trails managed by Coastal Mountains Land Trust, a Camden-based conservancy.

A return route down the east bank of the river to the Harbor Walk at Footbridge Road has come up in discussions of the Greenway and appears on recent concept drawings as a dotted line but is not part of any formal development plan.

Marshall said the Harbor Walk would likely go out to bid in March 2012 with construction starting in that summer and continuing into fall.

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