Pedestrians and cyclists may soon have a safe pathway from the town center to Guilford Lakes School. At the Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on May 15, the board confirmed its commitment to the proposed Nut Plains path and took steps to move the project forward.
According to Town Engineer Jim Portley, the Nut Plains path has been in the works for three years after residents started requesting additional sidewalks or safer options for those traveling through town on foot or bike.
The path, as designed, stretches over two miles, beginning on the State Street side of the Adams Middle School property, running up to Nut Plains Road, crossing Goose Lane, eventually turning on North Madison Road and ending near Guilford Lakes Elementary School. Portley said the path will likely be made of concrete and about six feet wide—wider than a sidewalk, so any resident with the path in front of their property would not be locked into providing snow removal.
“It would be a seasonal path—people could clear the snow if they wanted to, but it wouldn’t be necessary,” he said. “It will be a multi-use path for walking and biking and that kind of thing just so people can get around.”
At the BOS meeting, Portley informed the board that the state had approved the project and provided cost estimates. The project is estimated to cost $1.6 million with 80 percent funded through federal dollars, leaving the town to cover 20 percent or roughly $290,000. Portley said the town had already approved $140,000 for the project and requested the rest of the funds be pulled from the Inland Roads bond.
“Those are rough numbers we are nowhere near the point of having accurate numbers, these are just conceptual numbers,” he said. “Hopefully we would bring it in at less than that…Once we commit to the 20 percent [which the BOS voted to do], then the state will call for an assignment meeting and we will sit down with them and then we will work through to get to construction—it is a process and it takes time.”
First Selectman Joe Mazza said there are plenty of steps to go through, but wanted to make sure the board informed the state of the commitment to the 20 percent so that the town would not lose project support.
“We just need to secure our place in line [for the money] and then of course we have to go through all of the steps and get public input,” he said. “On any project we have to get public input.”
Some selectmen were slightly gun-shy over the use of the words greenway or path, remembering the recent and lengthy debate over the Shoreline Greenway Trail. Selectman Gary MacElhiney said while he knows residents asked for this project, he is still worried about public backlash.
“Given all the issues and controversies we have had over sidewalks and greenways and pathways, have any residents spoken out?” he asked. “I would like to see some sort of public input so they can see where this is going and what it means for them because I would hate to do all of this and then find out all of the residents are unhappy with it.”
Mazza said this is not a new version of the Shoreline Greenway Trail, but he understands MacElhiney’s concerns.
“This is a pathway that has been asked for by a number of residents over the last couple of years,” he said. “But Gary’s point is well taken…I don’t want to go through the issues that we had with the greenway trail.”
The BOS approved the 20 percent funding for the project and voted to notify the state to secure the financing for the project.