City adopts policies for public rangeways

Plans call for improvements to some
By Ethan Andrews | Nov 14, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews A public footpath at the foot of Allyn Street leading to the bay. The city surveyed 11 of these "rangeways" for a new set of policies that gently reinforces public ownership of the city's rights-of-way to the water while overlooking some encroachments by private property owners.

Belfast — The City Council has adopted a policy for 11 public rights-of-way to the water. The "rangeways" as they are known, date to the original land divisions in Belfast that fishermen and others could continue to have access to the source of their livelihood.

The city recently mapped and surveyed the rangeways using a Maine Coastal Communities grant. The result was a set of broad guidelines for the 11 access points, along with specific plans to manage and improve each of the rangeways.

The policy gives a pass to existing encroachments by neighbors, who have extended their private uses into the public rights-of-way, but prohibits further encroachments and makes clear that the city maintains its rights to the land and may reclaim it at any time.

In some cases, the encroachments followed years of disuse when a rangeway wasn't maintained and became impassable. In other cases, most notably at Race Street where the abutter to the south built a parking area across the access path and the neighbor to the north planted shrubs on the city's land, the encroachments appear more intentional.

Improvements and maintenance will not be covered by the grant, but the policy includes suggestions for each rangeway. Several that are relatively accessible today, including the path at the foot of Allyn Street and the old Upper Bridge access from Kaler Road, will remain as they are today. Condon and Race streets would see only minimal work to make them more accessible.

Other areas would get more extensive overhauls under the policy recommendations, including new steps on the overgrown and eroded rangeway at Highview Terrace, an engineer-designed path at the washed out end of Fahy Street, and paved "hammerhead"-style turnarounds on Mayo Street and Huntress Avenue.

Two long paths from Searsport Avenue to the water would be cleared and made easier to walk with wood chips and bridges over a creek bed.

A public access on the west side of the old Upper Bridge that drops off steeply is the only one of 11 locations that would not be improved to create access to the water. City officials determined it should be kept clear for viewing but that it was not suitable for direct access to the river.

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