By Melanie Sochan, published on February 9, 2017
SCARBOROUGH — The Eastern Trail Alliance is just under $600,000 away from starting a 1.6-mile Close the Gap project.
The alliance has already raised more than $3.2 million towards the $3.8 million project, closing in on the funding needed to make the proposal a reality.
The funding must be in place before construction can begin. Alliance representatives said construction won’t begin until 2018.
Close the Gap would connect the trail in South Portland to Scarborough, and bridging the area would create a 16-mile continuous off-road trail from Bug Light in South Portland to downtown Saco.
The 1.6 miles would link the Wainwright Recreation Complex in South Portland and a section of trail in Scarborough that ends at the Nonesuch River, near Eastern Road.
Cyclists and pedestrians now have to traverse the streets of Gary Marietta Way, Highland Avenue, Black Point Road and Eastern Road to continue on the trail.
Carole Brush, executive director of the Eastern Trail Alliance, said the surface of the new section will be made of stone dust. The funding would pay for two bridges in Scarborough – one over the Nonesuch River off Eastern Road and another that would cross the Pan Am Railways track near Pleasant Hill Road.
Diana Nelson, a volunteer with ETA and director of communications at Black Fly Media, said the company has published drone video of the Eastern Trail that includes aerials of the land and river where the two bridges will be built. The 51-second video can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/191156005.
According to Brush, funding includes $1.55 million from the Maine Department of Transportation and $1.1 million from the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. Town and Country Federal Credit Union donated $100,000 in December for the project. The Eastern Trail Alliance has matched $50,000 in donations, for a total contribution of $100,000. Other large donations have come from the town of Scarborough ($216,000), WEX ($25,000), Avangrid ($25,000) and the Thompson family ($25,000).
Donations may be made at active.com/donate/closegap.