GARDINER — Dorothy Washburne waited for more than an hour into the informational meeting on the development of Gardiner’s Cobbossee Trail project to ask the question closest to her heart.

Washburne and other members of the Gardiner Main Street Screetscape Team have been working along the bank of Cobbosseecontee Stream at the Arcade parking lot for the last few weeks to pull out invasive plant species and limb up some trees to provide better views of the stream.

That’s also the area through which the city’s Cobbossee Trail is proposed to go, and preliminary plans for that stretch, developed by consultants working for the state Department of Transportation, show that part of that bank will be dug up for the path.

“Should we just stop now?” Washburne said. Doing more, she added, seems like a waste of time.

Washburn’s question emphasized the point at which the project now rests.

It was one of more than a dozen that came from the 50 people who filled the seats in the gymnasium of the Boys and Girls Club of Kennebec Valley at a public meeting on the project.

Originally conceived more than a decade ago as a city project, city officials have opted to turn over a portion of the trail development to the Department of Transportation, which is working on a project to replace the Bridge Street and Maine Avenue bridges, for efficiency and cost savings.

For those who are working on the project, considerations like impact on property owners along the trail’s route, traffic routes and turning radius of trucks and larger vehicles have guided their decisions.

John Rodrogue, a DOT project manager, said that between this project, the replacement of two bridges and a Water Street paving project, Gardiner will be seeing a great deal of change in the next three years.

The path is just one of the changes coming to Gardiner’s downtown area.

In addition to the bridge replacement work, Developers Collaborative has two projects outlined on some of the former T.W. Dick properties on Summer Street.

The company is planning to build 15 units of workforce housing at the west end of Summer Street, and it will build an 8,000-square-foot facility to lease to Fresenius Medical Care, an international company that provides kidney care and other medical services.

Those properties are along Cobbosseecontee Stream, which is the focus of the city’s Cobbossee Corridor Master Plan.

The city developed an initial design and engineering plan for the pedestrian and bicycle trail in 2009 with a grant from the Maine Department of Transportation. The plan proposed creating a trail that would leave from the Kennebec River Rail Trail in the Hannaford supermarket parking lot and follow the stream along the Arcade parking lot behind downtown. The trail would cross Winter Street and enter the woods beyond Summer Street.

City officials adopted a plan in 2005 that called for commercial, residential and mixed-use development and recreational options in the Cobbosssee Corridor, the area along the stream from New Mills Dam to the Kennebec River. Both building a trail along the stream and redeveloping the Summer Street area near the stream were also long-range goals in a 1999 downtown revitalization plan by the city.

Other residents wanted to know why the current trail alignment was chosen, offered up suggestions and ideas, like including using an angled curb for the safety of both bicycles and cars, incorporating natural materials in barriers and incorporating art as part of the project.

Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street and economic development coordinator for the city cautioned that the budgets for both the state administered portion and the city administered portion of the trails are limited.

State transportation officials and consultants working on the project are expected to take the comments into consideration as they move into the next phase of the design and decision-making before the project gets underway in 2018.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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