The city council accepted a bid for the removal of 2.1 miles of rail and ties from Belfast's rail corridor, as part of its plans to construct a recreational trail along the Passagassawakeag River.

In August and September, the contractor will remove the rails and ties, as well as level the underlying large-grade gravel base layer.

F.C. Work & Sons Inc. of Jackson, which was awarded the contract, bid to complete the work for $500, as the salvage price of the steel rails will pay most of their costs for labor and disposal of the ties. (The contract states that the rails and ties become the property of the contractor.)

Another bidder, Iron Horse Preservation Society Inc. of New Hampshire, bid to pay the town $500 to complete the work because the price for the steel would more than cover their expenses.

The city attorney said the difference in bids was negligible, and City Manager Joseph Slocum recommended the city not award the contract to Iron Horse, the lowest bidder, citing a situation in Salem, N.H., in which Iron Horse removed the rails but the ties remained for a full year.

Furthermore, F.C. Work & Sons would guarantee its work with a $70,000 line of credit, whereas Iron Horse would guarantee its work with a portion of the steel to be held by the city as collateral. The city council said it did not want the responsibility of guarding a pile of steel.

Slocum said Iron Horse Preservation Society was impressed with F.C. Work & Sons' removal methods.

The council also discussed safety measures to deal with the anticipated increased trail use once the rails and ties are removed. Of particular concern was the bridge that crosses the Passagassawakeag River. Without the rails, there would be gaps in the bridge surface.

"Closing the bridge down would not be realistic because people are going to try to cross, no matter what," Slocum said in a phone call with The Journal.

Instead, the city will install some temporary decking and fencing across the bridge as a safety measure until permanent fencing and decking can be installed.

Coastal Mountain Land Trust is conducting a private fundraising effort to raise a portion of the $700,000 needed to complete the trail, parking area, signage and bridge improvements. After the private fundraising is complete, the organization will be accepting donations from the public.

The planned trail would be 10 feet wide with a flat, stone-dust surface. To keep the trail as natural as possible, no lights will be installed, and snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles will be prohibited from using the trail.

"It will be a trail for all ages," Slocum said. "Because it is perfectly flat, the young and the elderly can use it."

The city has a partnership with Brooks Preservation Society to use some of its property for parking, and local groups will be involved in maintaining the trail.

"It will be a big, big asset to our region," he added. "I see the citizens of Belfast using it every day and loving it — and visitors will use it too."

Correction: An earlier version of this story spelled F. C. Work & Sons Inc. with the wrong second initial.