News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 9, 2017
New Blue Hill nonprofit announces itself, and a plan

The Connectivity Project

George Fields, associate director of Blue Hill Heritage Trust, holds up the Connectivity Project design at the February 3 selectmen’s meeting.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

With bylaws and articles of incorporation already filed, a new nonprofit, Blue Hill Community Development, presented itself and its first project to selectmen on February 3.

With well over 30 members of BHCD and the public-at-large crowding the selectmen’s meeting room, the group presented its initial Connectivity Project, a network of improved sidewalks and trails for a pedestrian, bike and car-friendly downtown. The group has already succeeded in having Maine Department of Transportation change the speed limit on the South Street approach to the traffic circle to 15 miles per hour.

“This town has very passionate people with great ideas,” member Ed Volkwein said.

Member John Burns discussed BHCD’s plan for grants to fund the project, and that it seeks a town meeting warrant article to help fund 20 percent of the initial project, the gap that would be left if three planned grant applications are approved, from Maine Community Foundation, MDOT Bicycles and Pedestrian Program (formerly Safe Routes to School), and a Recreational Trails Program grant, funded by the Federal Highway Administration through the MDOT. While the Maine Community Foundation grants from $5,000 to $10,000, the MDOT BPP grant can be “as large as $500,000,” Burns said, with the expectation that the town will fund 20 percent of the project.

“Funding is what holds back projects,” Selectmen Chairman John Bannister said. “I’m really glad you guys see that…I’m encouraged to hear the way you’re going about this.”

Connecting the downtown to the South Street corridor, which has seen a slow-but-steady increase in stores, organizations and schools, is a main focus of the project, especially with the planned 2018 relocation of the Blue Hill Co-op.

Burns acknowledged that while BHCD is not the first group of Blue Hill citizens to band together, that only demonstrates a “broad-reaching need and demand” for such an organization in the community. The group is open to the public and will hold its first community forum within the next four to six weeks.

Its mission statement reads: “An inclusive, community-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to building and nurturing a thriving local economy and an accessible community in the town of Blue Hill.”

Selectmen, of whom Vaughn Leach is also a BHCD member, appeared to welcome the presentation. “This is a very refreshing effort, and as one selectman, I would do everything I can to develop funds,” Selectman Jim Schatz said.

And while there were questions from community members, such as whether the public-at-large should have been invited to participate earlier, and a brief discussion of the failure of a revised comprehensive plan to pass voter approval in 2004, the overall tone was positive.

“This is the beginning for everybody,” Schatz declared. “This becomes a point of departure.”

The  Connectivity Project design

The proposed plan for a network of improved sidewalks and trails to connect South Street and downtown Blue Hill, drafted by architect and Blue Hill Community Development member Bruce Stahnke.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Stahnke
The Connectivity Project

George Fields, associate director of Blue Hill Heritage Trust, holds up the Connectivity Project design at the February 3 selectmen’s meeting.

Photo by Anne Berleant