Rail Trail development

The City is approaching a significant development in the future creation of a pedestrian recreational trail within the 3-mile rail corridor owned by the city. City Council purchased the corridor in 2010 with the stated intent to develop this pedestrian and bicycle recreational trail within its 100 foot wide boundary. The goal has been to find a way to preserve both the economic asset of the rail while creating a new recreational asset- the trail.

The City has worked with neighbors along the corridor to settle any questions about the City’s right to build the trail. We have had a lot of success, but concerns remain about where exactly the trail would be built or whether potential fences between the rail and the trail would threaten some owners abilities to access their property on the other side. A couple of neighbors wanted assurance that it would be built right where the existing tracks are.

The City applied for, and received, a $40,000 grant, which we matched with another $20,000 so that we could hire a consultant to help us identify both the location of this trail, design major elements and identify projected cost.

On Friday, May 18, City Council members, and City employees met with our design consultant, VHB, Inc., and walked through this corridor foot by foot. This close up look helped to highlight the challenges associated with building the trail alongside the rail. It became apparent during that collective field survey that the cost of developing a trail alongside the rail would be significantly higher than expected.

The City asked the design consultant to provide us with a very preliminary estimate of the cost to develop a 10 foot wide asphalt trail over the rail against the alternative of building such a trail alongside the rail.

On June 1 the City received written response from the design consultant. The report stated that the cost comparison was $1.3 million for the trail over the rail and $5.5 million for building the trail alongside the rail. The margin of error was $500,000. It is fair to say that this differential was far more than we anticipated.

We did not expect a 5 to 1 price difference. The Council has reviewed alternative options so that this highly beneficial trail opportunity for the City would not be so expensive. The City Attorney was asked to investigate options and to report back.

The Council has been made aware that there is a federal process called “Railbanking”, whereby an owner, in this case the City, can request from the Federal Surface Transportation Safety Board,- permission to put rail operations on indefinite hold and instead use the corridor for recreational purposes. If the Federal Government agrees, then the railbanked line (can be all or part of the corridor) will stay preserved as a rail corridor for the long term future. The owner has the option to either leave the rails in place or may remove the rails.

The rail corridor, once “banked” is put on a shelf or in a savings account (“rail bank”) for a very long time, but it remains preserved for potential future reactivation. Should technology and/or economy one day suggest reinstatement then the City or a railroad operator could request reactivation.

The Council appreciates the resources that City Point Rail has become and is interested in finding a way to continue to maintain rail access from City Point Rail out to the main line. This may be the one area where the trail and the rail co-exist.

One attractive component of this process is that once as rail corridor is “rail banked,” it encompasses the ability of the corridor to be used for recreational purposes during the period of the rail banking.

The appeal of this option for the City is fairly obvious.

1) The City preserves the long-term economic asset of the rail corridor for the extended future.

2) The City could build the recreational trail sooner and for far cheaper.

3) Rail banking would resolve any remaining question about recreational use of the corridor.

City Council has asked the Attorneys to pursue looking into this matter further so that we are very clear about what’s involved. At this juncture, it is entirely possible that much of this corridor could be railbanked in less than a year.

We are fine tuning our understanding of the legal and economic issues involved. The Council has had open conversations with the neighbors and is interested in scheduling another meeting that will include a public hearing before making a decision.

Thank you for your continued interest in this matter.

Joe Slocum

Belfast’s City Manager

 

Salute to Little League

To all the Little League families and friends: Hats off to all of you who come together as an awesome family of baseball, which is called Belfast, Northport, Swanville Cal Ripken League.

Sandi Roman announces the scores, players’ stats and local announcements with such enthusiasm, puts in a long, hard day at the YMCA, then comes and announces the annual hitting derby, which lasts all day into the night. She also sings the national anthem beautifully. Thank you, Sandi, just a great personality.

Eric Sanders, city councilor, and Jim Bell of Parks and Recreation for all the maintenance, mowing of fields, porta toilets and just stepping up and getting the job done. Two thumbs up to you both.

Thanks to all the people who fundraised; we were very successful.

Local businesses such as Rollie’s Cafe, New Wave Salon, Swan Lake Grocery and Jack’s Grocery, who sponsor the banners, farm team uniforms, food and all the other local businesses in town, which will receive a thank-you for their extreme generosity, those many banners hang proudly on the Walsh’s Little League fence. When you see these businesspeople around town, please thank them.

The children and their parents are truly the best of the best for their dedication, motivation and talent, and their love of the game. These hard-working parents work all day, get their children to the practices and scheduled games. Some of these kids have multiple sports that they play. These children are in school all day, do homework, play baseball, just simply work hard. There isn’t a parent who would not help out if asked. These parents go above and beyond the call of duty. You are appreciated and respected more than you know. The tasks are endless. It takes hundreds of people, all volunteers, to make this league function and stay together.

The board is truly the place where integrity, honesty and, above all, fairness to the children who make a lot of sacrifices to be a Little Leaguer, not to mention their family members, is crucial. This is the place to leave the egos at home, come to the table and get down to business. Keep it simple and get on with the rules and the regulations of the league. Approach each angle, which leaves no room for error. Things can be decided fairly, if you examine all the angles, and how this will affect you, is it good or is it bad?

Board members include Stan Sturgis Sr., president; Larry Dyer, vice president; Jaime Sturgis, Belinda Dyer, Mike Dyer, Crystal Meyer, Penson Bartlett, Roland Littlefield, Kurt Payson, Jason Wilcox, Jason Perkins, Nate Spectre, Rusty Smith and Elishia Darress.

Umpires are Jeff Thorndike, Debbie Johndroa, Kevin Johndroa, Patrick Johndroa, Stan Desjardins, Bob Bourassa, Mark Riposta and Roland Littlefield.

Coaches are: for the Angels, Larry Dyer, manager, Mike Dyer, coach and Nathan Spectre, coach; for the Yankees, Jason Wilcox, manager, Mark Goguen, coach and John Lewis, coach; for the Indians, Chris Alley, manager, Jason Perkins, coach and Winston Simmons, coach; for the Tigers, Gary Gale, manager, Ruth Gale, Coach and Gerry Alden, coach.

Thanks again to all of you. It’s really and truly all about our dedicated kids. Our children are awesome.

Linda Nash

Belfast