According to a 2014 survey by the Eastern Trail Alliance, almost 90,000 people per year use the Eastern Trail, running from Bug Light in South Portland to Kittery – 62 miles.
On this trail, people of all ages, locals and those from away, enjoy exercising in a safe, clean environment. The annual economic impact of its use is estimated at over $850,000.
The Eastern Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, which goes from Calais to Key West, Florida. Much of the trail is off-road, but several miles are still on unsafe roads.
The goal of the Eastern Trail Alliance is to close a 1.6-mile gap in the trail where the Greenway ends at Wainright Field in South Portland. Two major obstacles – railroad tracks and the Nonesuch River – stand in the way.
The funds needed to close the gap, $3.8 million, will pay for the construction of two bridges plus leveling and widening the rest of the trail to make it handicapped accessible. Once this gap is closed, the trail will offer 16 miles of continuous, off-road access from Bug Light to downtown Saco.
So far, $1.55 million has been committed by the Maine Department of Transportation and $1.1 million has been contributed by the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System. About $1 million more is needed by the end of 2016 to close the gap. A real concern is that if the additional needed funds are not raised by the end of this year, then the state funds earmarked for this project may be diverted to other projects.