FARMINGTON – A proposal to build a bridge across the Sandy River to connect the downtown district with an extensive rail trail will be the topic of discussion at a public forum held on Sept. 11.
The bridge would link a short trail section which begins at the large parking lot near Narrow Gauge Cinema with a 14.5 mile trail system that links West Farmington, East Wilton, Dryden and Jay. The bridge would be available for use by pedestrian, bike, horse and snowmobile traffic, similar to arrangements in Bethel and the Forks, where other bridges have been constructed.
An engineering study on the feasibility of the project concluded that the structure could cost $1.6 million or more to implement. The Whistle Stop Trail Coalition, a group of residents interested in seeing the bridge built, are interested in ways to fund the construction.
The meeting will be held at the Granary on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested in the project, or anyone with knowledge or ideas which could prove helpful are urged to come. Light refreshments will be served, and an RVSP is “helpful but not necessary.”
“We’re looking for ideas,” Whistle Stop Trail Coalition member Sandy Richard, also of the Healthy Community Coalition said, “whether it’s fundraising or grant opportunities or private donations. If you know someone who owns a concrete business or is a retired bridge engineer, we’d like to hear from you.”
The benefits of the bridge could be manyfold. The structure would link a trail system with the businesses of downtown Farmington. Richard noted that someone could hike the trail, then take in dinner and movie in Farmington. From her perspective with HCC, she can also see the advantage of making the jogging, biking and cross-county skiing trail more easily accessible.
“It definitely has health benefits,” she said. “The impact on tourism would also be a plus.”
There are other potential benefits as well. Snowmobiles looking to cross the Sandy must now use the sidewalk on Center Bridge. The bridge’s crest gives automobile drivers poor visibility when trying to spot the low-to-the-ground snowmobiles, and if a sled slips off the sidewalk, it could go into traffic. Richard also noted that the new Rite Aid building on the Interval would cut off an old snowmobile route which wound behind the Farmington Diner.
Richard has been involved with the effort of five years, and says that some have been pushing the bridge concept even longer. The old railroad bridge on the proposed site was destroyed during a flood in 1989. As the rail bed trail is owned by the state Department of Conservation since 1999, the coalition serves that agency in an advisory capacity.
The trail system, leaving West Farmington and heading towards Jay, passes through the Titcomb Mt. Ski area, behind Hannafords, Family Fare Restaurant, Wal-Mart, and Franklin Memorial Hospital. It continues through Wilton, across the bridge behind Shelly’s Hometown Market in East Wilton, through Dryden, across Route 4 near Rick’s Market, into North Jay and Jay behind Hannafords and ends on Route 4 near La Fleur’s and the old train depot building in Jay.
For more information or interest in joining the rail trail coalition, contact David Rodrigues, Maine Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands at 207-287-5574 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about this project or to find out how you can help contact: Richard at the Healthy Community Coalition at 645-3136, ext. 5116; or Richard Davis, Farmington town manager at 778-6538; or Buzz Davis at 778-4275.