Two proposed trails for Richmond will be explored at a public meeting this week, including a proposal to build Richmond’s portion of an ambitious 25-mile trail connecting Gardiner and Topsham.

The other proposed trail is a paved path that would link the town’s Waterfront Park and the state boat launch for Swan Island 300 feet away. Planning of that project is being underwritten by a federally funded $7,239 grant awarded by the Maine Coastal Program last year and a local match.

The town would contribute about $1,750 from its tax-increment financing district fund and $650 from in-kind work for the planning portion of the project, said Victoria Boundy, Richmond’s director of community and business development. Construction costs haven’t been determined yet, she said.

The public meeting, which will be followed by a tour of the potential site of the Waterfront Park path, is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Golden Oldies Senior Center at 314 Front St.

The purpose of the meeting is to seek public feedback to assist in the projects’ design and provide information from engineers, Boundy said. Both projects would further the town’s goal of becoming more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, as outlined in its pedestrian and bicycle plan completed last fall, she said.

“Richmond is a very walkable community,” Boundy said. “Lots of people are out every day walking, and we’ve been making lots of strides toward being, you know, the quintessential walkable community.”

Pursuing the construction of the trail linking Gardiner and Topsham, called the Merrymeeting Trail, is one of the recommendations in the town’s pedestrian and bicycle plan.

Representatives from the communities along the trail, along with other community groups, have been meeting since 2008 to plan the project.

The trail would follow railroad tracks along the Kennebec River toward Merrymeeting Bay, passing through Gardiner, Richmond, Bowdoinham and Topsham. The goal is to connect the 6.5-mile-long Kennebec River Rail Trail that runs from Augusta to Gardiner with the 2.6-mile-long Androscoggin River Bicycle and Pedestrian Path in Brunswick and Topsham. It would be the longest portion of the Capital to the Coast Trail System connecting Augusta to Bath, identified by the state as a trail of “statewide significance.”

Boundy described the trail as a large, long-term project. The roughly 1-mile segment proposed in Richmond would be the start of it. The trail can be done in segments, with portions completed within the town’s villages before connecting the whole route, she said.

“We’re just trying to take those baby steps that will help us reach our overall goal,” Boundy said.

The Maine Department of Transportation already approved funding the segment in Richmond, which was estimated to cost $1.3 million in 2012. The town still needs to raise $265,000 for a local match, Boundy said. The Richmond trail also could be done in two segments, from High Street near the Richmond-Bowdoinham town line to Main Street to Lincoln Street.

The overall cost of the Merrymeeting Trail was estimated at $50 million, but a feasibility study completed in 2011 outlined some alternate routes for parts of the trail that would save money.

The next step for the overall project is for the communities to sign an inter-local agreement creating a board of supervisors to govern the project, said Nicole Briand, director of planning and development for the town of Bowdoinham. Topsham residents will decide whether to join the group at their Town Meeting next month, and officials in the other communities will decide sometime later, Briand said. Sometime this spring or early summer, signs will be installed along the trail’s interim route, which follows roads through the communities, she said.

Boundy said the group and its governing structure is being modeled after the Kennebec River Rail Trail because “it’s clear that the Kennebec River Rail Trail is a real success story.”

“It’s really a valued resource in those communities,” she said.

Briand, who has represented Bowdoinham for the project since its start, said she thinks the trail would benefit the region greatly.

“One of the things that people are really looking for nowadays is outdoor recreation and facilities, and it’s a big driver of economic development in other states,” she said.

Outdoor resources are also an attraction for younger people, Boundy said, a segment of the population the state is looking to appeal to and keep.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig


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