Blazing the Eastern Trail: Pingree provides funding for design and engineering

US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree presented a check for $700,000 to the Eastern Trail Alliance in Kennebunk on Friday May 20. The money will pay for the design and engineering of an 11-mile extension of the trail to North Berwick. Attendees at the event, left to right, were Kennebunk Town Manager Mike Pardue, Eastern Trail Alliance Manager Jon Kachmar, Pingree and East Coast Greenway Northern New England Manager Kristine Keenay, Photo by Tammy Wells

KENNEBUNK – Every Thursday, 100 Kennebunk Elementary School students from the Running with Character group hit the nearby Eastern Trail, exercising and enjoying the outdoors – the trailhead is on the other side from the parking lot of the school property.

The trail is a popular spot, Kennebunk Elementary School principal Ryan Quinn said.

“Parents bring their bikes at the end of the day,” he said, and families go out for a ride along the trail.

They aren’t the only ones using the Eastern Trail here. It’s a haven for many walkers, cyclists and others, said Jon Kachmar, director of the Eastern Trail Alliance.

Now, with the injection of $700,000 in federal funds, the Eastern Trail will take another step in its quest to reach the New Hampshire border. The money, combined with a $210,000 match from the alliance, will fund the design and full engineering of the 11-mile corridor from Kennebunk to North Berwick.

It is part of the Blaze the Trail South initiative. The Eastern Trail Alliance’s goal is to extend the trail to Kittery.

MP Chellie Pingree secured the funding and stopped by on Friday May 20 to celebrate, along with members of the Eastern Trail Alliance, East Coast Greenway, city officials and others.

Jim Tasse, assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, rides the Kennebunk portion of the Eastern Trail on May 20. MP Chellie Pingree stopped by the trail to present a check for $700,000 to the Eastern Trail Alliance that day to help pay for the design and engineering of the trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick. Photo by Tammy Wells

“I couldn’t be more excited; I can’t wait to get the chance to ride this,” Pingree said.

Pingree got the money through funding Community Projects, one of 10 projects in Maine. A second project in York County is providing $325,000 for a community resource center through York County Shelter Programs.

“This is the first time in 10 years that we have brought funding back to community projects,” in the appropriations bill, Pingree said.

“Expanding the trail south toward our goal of reaching the Maine-New Hampshire border will provide a significant investment in off-road trails in southern Maine,” Kachmar said.

Construction, pending funding, will come after engineering and design. Kachmar estimated the construction of the trail to North Berwick at around $7 million.

The Eastern Trail is Maine’s southern portion of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway between Calais, Maine and Key West, Florida. Based on a 2021 economic impact analysis, 250,000 people use the trail each year, and each user spends an average of $118 per day, according to information from Pingree’s office. The trail also supports 364 jobs statewide, $12.5 million in revenue, and $32.1 million in sales, with most sales coming from lodging, food and beverage, and recreational items. retail.

The Eastern Trail Alliance plans to extend the trail from Kennebunk to North Berwick. Courtesy Image

The Eastern Trail runs along the former right of way of the Eastern Railroad, a line that brought families from the Boston area to seaside communities in York County from the late 1800s to the mid-1940s, when it ceased to work. In 1965, Portland Gas Light purchased much of the abandoned right-of-way and installed a gas pipeline. The Eastern Trail Alliance was formed in 1998 and work has begun. New Hampshire-based Unitil acquired the line and most of the right-of-way in 2008 and shared use of the line continues.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Bob Hamblen, vice president of the Eastern Trail Alliance. “We owe a lot to Jon Kachmar for being aware of the opportunity and applying, and to our delegation.”

He said the late John Andrews, who founded the Eastern Trail, “looks at us and smiles”.

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