Gardiner officials weigh Cobbossee Trail development options and costs


GARDINER — The Cobbossee Trail Committee has some ideas for the next phase of expanding a recreational trail along the Cobbosseecontee Stream, which has been the engine of Gardiner’s economy for decades.

The committee also has hurdles to overcome before it can offer a recommendation to city officials, including money, time and scope.

Highlighting its challenges during a presentation last week to Gardiner City Council, the committee presented two options for developing Cobbossee Trail west of the city’s downtown, along the creek and looping back to Water Street.

The abandoned railway bed that crosses Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner, pictured last Thursday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

“Our plan is to get feedback and review it,” Gay Grant, Chair of the Cobbossee Trail Committeee, said. “We will make a recommendation and develop a budget. We will have a fundraising plan, as promised, with some ideas for grant writing and fundraising. And we’ll have a supporting case, which will help you decide if this is a big enough project to move forward.

For many years, plans to develop this section of trail relied on using the railroad trestle that crosses the creek and in 2016 city officials received a $50,000 grant from the Elmina Foundation B. Sewell to help fund the cost of trail design.

“It’s a wonderful piece of architecture there,” Grant said. “We are sorry to say that it has deteriorated to the point where using it as we had hoped – to cross the creek as a pedestrian and cycle path – will not be possible.”

Both options are described in the feasibility study on the extension of the trail that the municipal authorities entrusted to Stantec, an engineering services company, for the realization. Because the trestle had been the cornerstone of the project, Grant said, the engineering study evaluated other stream crossing alternatives.

The first option would use the existing right-of-way and the space occupied by a disused railway trestle that crosses the creek. This project is estimated between 2.3 and 2.7 million dollars.

The second option follows a shorter path with a shorter reach needed to cross the stream, which would avoid working in the stream bed. Its cost is estimated between 1.5 and 1.8 million dollars.

Neither set of estimates includes costs associated with right-of-way acquisition, landscaping, lighting, or other improvements.

Cost estimates developed in 2018 for the easel rehabilitation were around $1 million. Grant said based on this, some committee members believed that even with today’s high prices by inflation, the cost of crossing the creek would be around that amount. This is not the case.

Grant said the committee felt more comfortable recommending the second option, but he was still looking for information, including whether the trail might end in a park at the end of Summer Street for now, which has views. spectacular views of the creek and its wildlife.

Given the cost estimates that have been developed, that could be the end point of the trail, she said, but it’s up to the Maine Department of Transportation to determine if that will be enough, given that the plan has always been to cross the creek. .

“We’re waiting for word to come back and we’ll let you know,” Grant said, noting that she didn’t ask transportation officials until the day before Wednesday’s city council meeting.

Acting City Manager Anne Davis said the area where Summer Street ends at Harden Street is beautiful.

“That could be the terminus for now, and it would be a nice place for our citizens to go picnic and enjoy,” Davis said. “The views are truly amazing.”

The Cobbossee Trail project dates back nearly two decades, to 2005, when city officials developed the Cobbossee Corridor Master Plan. The plan called for commercial, residential and mixed-use development along Cobbosseecontee Creek from the New Mills Dam to the Kennebec River.

For centuries, the creek has powered industrial operations and mills that have been integral to Gardiner’s growth. However, as factories closed and industrial activities left town, they left behind a blight and opportunities for other types of economic development, including recreational options, such as the Cobbossee Trail.

The abandoned railway trestle that spans Cobbossee Stream in Gardiner, pictured last Thursday. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

The idea of ​​redeveloping the area around Summer Street and developing a pathway near the creek goes back even earlier, to a list of long-term goals identified in a 1999 downtown revitalization plan.

In 2009, the city secured a grant from the Maine Department of Transportation to develop a trail that would branch off from the Kennebec River Railroad Trail and follow the creek through the Arcade parking lot behind Water Street in downtown Gardiner, crossing the Winter Street and entering the wooded area beyond Summer Street.

But the project was delayed to the point that in 2020 state DOT officials wanted to know if the project would be completed or if the city would return the funds.

The first phase of the trail begins in downtown Gardiner at the Kennebec River Rail Trail on Maine Avenue. It crosses the new pedestrian bridge installed as part of the state’s DOT project to replace the Bridge Street and Maine Avenue bridges. From there it travels along the creek into the Arcade car park, under the Bridge Street bridge.

The next section to be completed this year runs from this point to the northwest corner of the Water Street intersection, where Brunswick Avenue turns into Bridge Street and where the Chapman Fuel Building has stood for decades. before being demolished as part of the bridge project.

As planning for the bridge replacement project was nearing completion, city officials elected to turn that portion of the trail development over to the state DOT.

Grant said the committee plans to deliver its report to city council by June.

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