Those who have never seen a stone split by hand have another chance to change that.  The third such rock-splitting event, a collaboration between Waterfall Arts, the City of Belfast and the Belfast Bay Watershed Coalition, will take place Saturday, Nov. 1, at 11 a.m. at Stephenson Lane, on the east side of Belfast, rain, snow or sun.

Using the age-old feather-and-wedge process, local stone letter cutter Douglas Coffin will insert metal wedges into pre-drilled holes in the stone, then slowly and methodically tap them with a hammer until the rock splits in two. Asked how long the process takes, Coffin shrugged but allowed that the first Rangeway Rock split after about 20 minutes.

The rangeways are public paths to Penobscot Bay or the Passagassawaukeag River, established in the late 1700s by the city’s settlers. They were used by citizens then, as now, as public access points to the sea.   “Every four lots along the waterfront, the City founders set aside a two-rod parcel of land which would remain open to the inhabitants for their own use,” said Belfast Historical Society president Megan Pinette.

Those uses included shipping out lumber and produce; and hauling in goods, fish and seafood. Today, most residents use the pathways that are passable to walk on the beach, haul kayaks or go swimming. Belfast has claimed the 17 rangeways as public ways, though many are not very accessible due to erosion, tree growth and private land disputes.

In 2009, Waterfall Arts initiated the partnership with the City and BBWC to develop sculptural markers as clear public indicators of the rangeways. After receiving a grant from the Davis Family Foundation, in 2010 Waterfall Arts organized a committee of community members to select a design, and they chose Coffin’s. Working with neighbors of the most easily accessible rangeways, the group has installed a split rock at Allyn Street, between the Boathouse and the City Park; and on the east side off Kaler Road. The city contributed funds for the third marker.

“We are so excited to finally be installing this third split rock,” said Martha Piscuskas, co-director of Waterfall Arts.

The nonprofit sees its role as a catalyst for all kinds of art experiences in the community, she added.

“Public art is a great example of that. Douglas’ simple design takes a natural element, a large piece of granite, and gently alters it to act as a clear gateway. The selection committee was delighted,” said Piscuskas.

This third rangeway can be found next to the Wentworth Building on Route 1, across from Stephenson Lane. The path now meanders through the woods between a field and private homes, ending up on some rock steps to the shore. City workers cleared the path, and the BBWC created some split long bridges over marshy areas.

A Josh Povec video on the rangeway project and the first rock-splitting, produced for Waterfall Arts and funded in part by the Maine Arts Commission, can be viewed online at waterfallarts.org.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.