The Eastern Trail Alliance has reached its $4.1 million fundraising goal for the “Close the Gap” campaign to build two bridges in Scarborough that will complete 16 miles of uninterrupted, off-road trail from downtown Saco to Bug Light Park in South Portland.

It was the largest fundraiser in the alliance’s 18-year history, topped off with an additional $500,000 pledge last week from the Maine Department of Transportation, the alliance announced Friday.

In 2015, the MDOT committed $1.55 million to the project and asked Scarborough, South Portland and the alliance to raise the remaining funds. With help from the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the campaign raised nearly $2 million from various donors, including and Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System, which pledged over $1.1 million.

“We are like the little engine that could,” said Carole Brush, executive director of the alliance. “We believe in what we are doing and clearly so do our partners.”

The “Close the Gap” funds will be used to build two bridges – one over the Nonesuch River near Eastern Road and the other over the Pan Am Railways tracks near Pleasant Hill Road – that will complete a 1.6-mile section of the off-road recreational trail as it passes through Scarborough. Pending regulatory approvals, construction is expected to begin next summer.

An architect’s rendering of the proposed bridge over the Nonesuch River, which currently marks the northern terminus of the Eastern Trail in Scarborough. A newly-funded project scheduled to begin construction in 2018 will connect the Eastern Trail’s Scarborough and South Portland sections to complete an uninterrupted, 16-mile trail running from downtown Saco to Bug Light Park in South Portland. Courtesy of the Eastern Trail Alliance

“This trail project is a successful example of how collaboration between a public and private partnership should work,” said MDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “It enables us to stretch our dollars further and gives momentum to grassroots fundraising projects.”

Other major donors include Town & Country Federal Credit Union, Caiazzo Family of Scarborough, Avangrid, Thompson Family of South Portland, WEX, Quimby Family Foundation, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, Davis Conservation Foundation and Rugged Elegance.

The alliance will continue fundraising for trail maintenance and unforeseen expenses. The alliance has several other trail expansion efforts underway in Kennebunk, Wells and the Berwicks.

The Eastern Trail is a 65-mile on- and off-road recreational trail that runs from South Portland to Kittery. It’s part of a larger effort to establish a 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway from Calais to Key West, Florida.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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