Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 29, 2017
Architect, engineer outline details of BHCD plans
by Anne Berleant
A June 14 public forum on detailing design plans for connecting South Street, Main Street and Parker Point Road in an accessible, safe way for pedestrians and bicyclists drew a markedly smaller audience than an initial meeting held in March, when Blue Hill Community Development introduced the first concept drawings.
BHCD grew out of a grassroots effort to address pedestrian and bike safety on South Street, the location of Bay School, Blue Hill Harbor School, Bagaduce Music Lending Library and the future home of the Blue Hill Co-op.
At the March forum, many expressed concern that hundreds of thousands of dollars could be used to improve South Street when Main Street was as, or more, deserving. And at the June 14 meeting, a Union Street resident said, “If we’re going to maintain commerce in the village we have to focus on downtown Main Street.”
BHCD, a recent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, initially responded by including a portion of Main Street in the most recent concept plans presented, and now plans to add Main Street from Union Street to The Fishnet, and also Pleasant Street up to Kneisel Hall.
The proposal under development is not a town plan, although BHCD chairman John Burns said it had the support of selectmen, the chairman of which, Vaughn Leach, is an ex officio member of BHCD. Nor will the effort mainly be supported by town funds, but is a “multi-year initiative,” to be funded through grants. Voters approved up to $100,000 in matching funds for grant applications at town meeting.
The first grant application, to the Maine Department of Transportation, for up to $400,000, is due August 15, with the knowledge that full funding is not available for the entire project scope. Landscape architect and planner Sam Coplon, of Coplon Associates, Bar Harbor, and Travis Noyce, of CES, Inc., Brewer, hired by BHCD using private donations, designed the plans, which Burns said were not final.
The plans for South Street call for narrower travel lanes, and a wider shoulder and sidewalks from NAPA to the traffic circle, with a four-foot bike lane. A crosswalk with raised paving will lead to the future co-op, per MDOT requirements.
Tenney Hill would see a wider and improved sidewalk “to foster a better connection” between South Street and Main Street, Coplon said.
On Parker Point Road, a paved shoulder would link to the trail at the Dodge fountain leading to South Street. BHCD plans to apply for a $50,000 grant to the Department of Agriculture to improve the trail.
The fourth segment shows a modified Main-Water-Union street intersection that reduces the total 200-plus feet of crossings, in part by having only one entrance to Water Street.
The amount of the grant, if awarded by MDOT, would determine which segment of the design can be addressed first, if the town votes to accept the grant.