by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
CAMDEN — The town of Camden has begun accepting bids for a proposed river walk and redesign of the public landing in order to better utilize the shore of the Megunticook river.
The walk, which is proposed to connect Shirttail Point Park to Camden Harbor, is planned to be “two-and-a-quarter miles of multi-use pathway located along and/or adjacent to the Megunticook river,” according to the town’s request for proposals.
The town has already secured funding for the planning of the project, according to their proposal request. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s Maine Coastal Program have all awarded grants to the town.
“We have some nice natural assets, such as the ragged mountain recreation area, mountain biking, cross country skiing, and Camden harbor,” said Brian Hodges, the development director for the town of Camden. “But what we also have is the Megunticook river.”
According to Hodges, the river walk idea has been kicked around for several years, but until recently there has been no codified efforts to see what it would take to create one. When the town recently underwent efforts in revitalizing their downtown, the idea came up again, only this time there is a solid plan to move forward.
“Right now we’ve issued a request for proposals,” said Hodges. “The proposals themselves will be due in January.”
The towns grants, which total $15,000, will go towards the planning stages of the project, which according to Hodges will hopefully be completed by October of 2013.
In addition to the plan providing the benefit of the walk itself, which is expected to raise the property values of adjacent areas, it will also assist the town in improving and utilizing the space known as the “tannery site,” a vacant and underused area the town has been in possession of since 2003 after they acquired it in a lien foreclosure. The site itself has been the subject of numerous projects that have attempted to either utilize or sell the space, with little success. The river walk would use some of the tannery site land, and put the vacant area to some use.
“We certainly feel that having a pathway adjacent to that property can also be an attraction for a business going there,” said Hodges.
The town will also need to talk to property owners long the river, whose land is occupying space the river walk may take up.
“It would require easements,” said Hodges. Although there are several property owners along the proposed route, Hodges assures that even if a property owner does not grant an easement for the use of their land, the project will not be hindered as there are still options.
“It will be kind of a snaking river walk,” said Hodges. “It’s not uncommon to see river walks be created in a manner like that, and then over time it may become more appealing to the individuals who wouldn’t grant us an easement initially.”
The river walk is just one facet of the plan. In addition to the walk along the river, the public landing in Camden will also be reworked to improve the space.
“It is essentially a parking lot,” said Hodges. “It’s on the prettiest harbor in Maine, and it’s a parking lot.”
According to Hodges, they are hoping to improve the space with a green area that will link up with the river walk in order to improve the aesthetic appeal of the space.
Overall the plan is still in its earliest stages, but Hodges is confident that it will move forward. However, before it does, the town plans on having a full and comprehensive plan on what the space will look like, and what costs it would entail.
“We wouldn’t even be considering breaking ground without having this kind of soup to nuts schematic design completed,” said Hodges.