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Apart from Florida, Maine contains the longest section of East Coast Greenway on its 2,600 mile route from the Canadian border to Florida
From the East Coast Greenway Maine State Comittee
Apart from Florida, Maine contains the longest section of East Coast Greenway on its 2,600 mile route from the Canadian border to Florida. It is the most rural and least populated of the 15 Eastern seaboard states and arguably provides some of the most scenic and historically interesting experiences for the non-motorized traveler along the entire route.
"Although Maine has significant stretches of abandoned railway and utility right-of-way that will provide excellent Greenway, much of our route will have to utilize roads initially," says Sue Ellen Bordwell, the Chair of the Maine East Coast Greenway committee. "Our objective is not only to develop a safe and scenic interim road route but one that local communities will support."
A series of 21 "regional town meetings" were organized to enable local officials, citizens, and trail groups to decide not only the best route for the Greenway, but also the best interim road route to be used while the Greenway is being designed and built. Pat King, Chair of the East Coast Greenway Alliance Board of Trustees explains, "It is easy to draw a line on a map. We did not want to repeat the mistake of other trail organizers by utilizing a top-down approach."
The first section of the East Coast Greenway starts at the Canadian border in Calais. The route follows much of the 132-mile Calais Branch rail-with-trail project sponsored by the Maine Department of Transportation and the Sunrise Trail Coalition. During the initial planning design, input was sought from within MDOT, other state and federal agencies, municipalities, and the public. Later, four public meetings were held for citizen review and input.
Another example of this process is in the southern part of Maine, where the Greenway will follow the planned 65-mile Eastern Railroad corridor between the New Hampshire border and South Portland. "It may take 10 to 15 years to convert all off-road sections to useable standards following the original Eastern Railroad corridor wherever possible," says John Andrews, the president of a group of dedicated volunteers working to make the Eastern Trail a reality.
Again with MDOT financing, more than 280 attendees in six public meetings helped to define two parallel routes&emdash; one for the ideal off-road trail, and a second on-road parallel route which can be opened as soon as signs and maps can be provided. The road sections may continue in use as optional routes for those preferring access to town centers and amenities, as well as if a trail needs to be closed for maintenance.
On a rainy weekday night...
How has the "regional town meeting" process worked? Let's take a look at one of the 11 meetings, this one in Belfast, Maine. John Balicki, the Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator for the Maine Department of Transportation has arrived early to set up the corridor maps and the tables for the group consensus mapping exercise.
Although only 12 attendees ventured out on this harsh early April night, they represent a diverse cross-section of the local communities: a city councilwoman, a professional city planner, the head of the local trails group, a kayaker, a long distance hiker, a member of the Regional Transportation Advisory Council, and several cyclists from surrounding towns. An overview of the East Coast Greenway vision, organization, and progress is followed by a description of how the corridor was defined in the State of Maine.
"So this is another MDOT project?" asked one attendee with a cynical tone. "Not at all," replied Balicki, "the easement acquisition and the actual planning of the trails along the Greenway route are being done by citizen groups and volunteers. MDOT and its engineers are only facilitating the meetings and recording the results."
The second part of the meeting was more fun: a participative mapping session. Balicki unrolled large-scale maps covering the 40-mile corridor that was the focus of the night's meeting. Marking pens made their way around the table as people inked in routes and alternatives. Some were crossed out and others were doubled or triple marked to emphasize the voting. At the end of the meeting, both the preferred Greenway and interim road routes were marked, along with numerous shops, campgrounds, museums, bakeries, and the establishment with the best Margaritas on the Mid-Coast.
The next steps were outlined by Balicki: the routes would be checked on the road for any potential problems; each municipality would receive a letter requesting endorsement of the route(s) through its community, and finally, a written report summarizing the selection process would be published.
This inclusive, grass-roots process has proven successful in other states as well, not only in finding the best route for this trail but in developing the local base of support required to ensure that it is implemented.
For more information about the grass-roots selection process for the ECG route in Maine contact: Sue Ellen Bordwell, the Chair of the ECG Maine State Committee (207) 846-3340, firstname.lastname@example.org or John Balicki, Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator, MDOT, (207) 287-6600, email@example.com.
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Updated March 16, 2007