2012-10-12 / Front Page


Journey long for Shore Road Path
By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

Luca Dragonette, 4, races down the final stretch of the two-mile long Shore Road Path between Cape Elizabeth’s town center and Fort Williams Park. The path, which was originally proposed in 2004, officially opened Monday, Oct. 8. (Jack Flagler photo)

CAPE ELIZABETH – At Fort Williams Park on a chilly fall afternoon, in among the crowd of about 150 people who all came to celebrate the opening of the town’s brand new Shore Road Path, it’s difficult to imagine this is a project that ever stirred any controversy.

Children, dogs, couples and families made the two-mile walk from the town center to the park to celebrate the opening of the path that will connect Cape Elizabeth’s town center with the park that includes its most famous landmark, Portland Head Light.

Residents chatted, enjoyed apples and cider, and children drew in chalk along the stretch of the path just outside the old entrance to Fort Williams Park, near the pond and tennis courts.

Children were invited to draw chalk pictures or messages on the stretch of Shore Road Path leading into the old entrance to Fort Williams Park. Volunteers also offered cider and apples at the ceremony, which was attended by about 150 people. (Jack Flagler photo) Children were invited to draw chalk pictures or messages on the stretch of Shore Road Path leading into the old entrance to Fort Williams Park. Volunteers also offered cider and apples at the ceremony, which was attended by about 150 people. (Jack Flagler photo) “This epitomizes what happens when people work together,” said Town Council Chairman Sara Lennon.

She added the cooperation of citizens and government at all levels proved to her, “This small community on the coast of Maine has got it over the nation’s capital.”

But, like many government projects, the Shore Road Path project did not come together without tough decisions and compromises.

Mary Ann Lynch, who was on the town council from 2001 to 2008 and began plans for the Shore Road Path as part of the town’s comprehensive plan committee in 2004, said the path came about through “hundreds of compromises” over the course of years.

“(Town Planner) Maureen (O’Meara) met with every single abutter along the path. They were moving the path to save a tree here, and accommodate home owners. It took a lot of compromise, collaboration and working together,” Lynch said.

Howard Littlefield was on the shore road path committee the town council appointed in 2007. He said residents along Shore Road had many concerns at initial public hearings.

“In the early stages there was a lot of opposition and it went through a whole lot of design changes,” Littlefield said.

But once the town decided to run the path on public property throughout the entire two-mile stretch, rather than stretching it into Robinson Woods, the process of building the path was expedited, Littlefield said.

Cape Elizabeth residents at the ceremony welcomed the opening of the path warmly. Steve Goldstein and his dog Maisy made the two-mile walk from town hall to the park. He said about three quarters of the crowd in attendance joined them.

“The Shore Path has been a long time coming. We’ve been in town 25 years – it’s really needed,” Goldstein said.

“Shore Road is very scenic, so people enjoy recreating on it whether they’re walking, jogging or biking, and in the past it created a hazard for drivers,” he added. “I hated driving down it on Sunday mornings cause I knew there’d be bikers on one side, joggers on the other, and it’s winding. Now, it’s going to alleviate that congestion so it’s a major safety upgrade.”

Lynch said another major benefit of the path is the link it provides between two areas of Cape Elizabeth she called “the focal points of town.”

“The kids have practices here, and Tee-ball, so it made sense for me to have a connection where kids could walk, run and ride their bikes so they could get from the schools up to Fort Williams,” she said.

The majority of the funding for the path was provided through a grant from the Maine Department of Transportation. That grant funded roughly 80 percent of the total cost, which was nearly $1 million. The remaining cost was funded by private donations and the town government’s contribution.

Town Councilor David Sherman attended the ceremony after playing a game of tennis at the Fort Williams courts nearby. He said the project has encompassed his entire tenure as a councilor, and he was glad to see it open to public use.

“I’ve only been on the council four years, so it seems like a long time to me. There’s just a lot of twists and turns in the process. I wish it hadn’t taken this long, but I’m happy that we got a good product,” Sherman said.

However, Lynch said eight years really isn’t that long for a government project to go from concept to completion, considering it involved efforts from private citizens and government at both the town and state level.

A few small stretches of the path still have to be completed, but Sherman said the remaining work is minor. After that, Lynch hopes there’s one more area in town that could be connected on the north side of Fort Williams Park leading to the sidewalk on Cottage Road.

“The final vision would be to connect that strip and we’ll be connected to our neighbors in South Portland,” Lynch said.

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