Town of Harpswell
Cliff Trail Rehabilitation Project
A ½-mile accessible trail from the Town Office to the Strawberry Creek Head of Tide
Vision: A ½-mile smooth-surface path along the shore of tidal Strawberry Creek to the Cascade Falls suitable for all users and age groups.
Current Problem: After 16 years of increasing use and popularity, the first 2,500+ feet of the Cliff Trail, from the Harpswell Town Office parking lot to the crossing of Strawberry Creek at the Head of Tide cascades, has become degraded. This section of trail is a relatively flat, wooded shore walk. However, the trail traverses land with thin soil on marine clay deposits resulting in a forest root structure that is shallow and soil that is poorly drained. Over time, the trail surface has become very muddy in places and covered by tree roots. There is nary a footfall where one’s shoe doesn’t step on a root or in soft mud.
Background: The Cliff Trail is one of the most popular trails in Harpswell. This trail traverses two parcels of land owned by the Town of Harpswell (acquired in 1978 and 2002) for a total of approximately 194 acres. The trail was opened in 2003 and expanded in 2006. The main loop, Cliff Trail, is 2.3 miles and marked in white blazes. Shorter walks under 2 miles are possible by taking a connector trail (yellow blazes) or by doubling back.
This is a rugged trail that features spectacular views from 150-foot cliffs overlooking Long Reach. Unbroken forest views stretch to the east and south of Long Reach. There are also established viewpoints at Henry’s Creek, along Strawberry Creek and at the Strawberry Creek cascades. Added destinations are the two Fairy house zones which were established in celebration and memory of Lindsey Perkins. Over the past 16 years, Town volunteers have constructed and maintained the trail network at almost no cost to the town of Harpswell.
Although the first ½-mile of trail is relatively flat, it has become more rugged due to the roots and mud obstacles. Maintaining this section of trail has been increasingly problematic for town volunteers. At least three times, sections of the trail along Strawberry Creek have been relocated to avoid the roots and mud where users had skirted around widening the problem areas – but to no avail. After a short time, these new sections become equally degraded. A more sustainable, longer-term solution is needed.
Discussion: There are several trail building techniques that would address the current problem along Strawberry Creek. These ‘hardening’ techniques would provide for improved water drainage and a smoother trail surface. In May, the Recreation Committee agreed to engage the Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) this summer to assess and recommend which technique would be most cost-effective and to determine if this ½-mile of the Cliff Trail could be upgraded to an accessible trail suitable for wheelchair users and the less sure-footed. This planning work cost $500.
In June, Recreation Committee members donated 270' of rough sawn boards, cedar ‘sleepers’ and fasteners. The Town purchased 1 box of fasteners as well. Volunteers installed the planks to help hikers navigate the muddy sections of the trail as a stop-gap measure. Already the planks are exhibiting some breakage due to wear.
In August, the Town received the MCC project plan which specified the trail rehabilitation recommendations, work plan and detailed cost estimates totaling $99,980. The concept plan was reviewed during a Selectboard workshop later that month which included a walk-through of the trail section to be rehabilitated.
In September, the Selectboard authorized applying for a Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant which was then submitted at the end of the month requesting $50,000.
Funding and Budget Request: We are requesting a budget appropriation of $19,000 based on the following funding plan:
RTP Grant $50,000
Recreation Carryover $20,000
Town appropriation $19,000 Budget Request
Donated Labor & Materials $11,000
Fundraising campaign $10,000