UPDATE: March 24, 2013
We are very pleased to report that MDOT recently awarded funding for the RiverWalk pedestrian bridge between Biddeford and Saco. City Planners Greg Tansley and Bob Hamblen spoke yesterday with the Journal Tribune’s Dina Mendros about the project. For more information, read this article.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 19, 2012:
Thank you for your continued support of this good project. Since our last update, a number of key pieces have fallen into place. Most significantly, the upcoming purchase and closure of the MERC facility by the City of Biddeford will have positive consequences for residents, businesses, the mills and, of course, for the RiverWalk. We are psyched!
Phase One, all but concluded, features a new approach from Mechanics Park and a new RiverWalk entrance. Granite steps, new plantings, lighting and cobblestones make an attractive gateway to RiverWalk Plaza, offering sweeping views of the Saco River, both upriver and down. On any given day if you visit the overlook, you will find people of all ages enjoying the vista. We regularly receive comments about how folks had no idea about the stunning views. Just wait!
This section, part of a number of improvements, includes new sidewalks and lighting running uphill from North Dam Mill on Main Street, new flashers given to Biddeford by the Maine DOT, and the start of directional and “wayfinding” signage, linking to both the downtown and across the river to Saco. In fact, Biddeford and Saco are working together to create signs that transition easily between the two cities—the first of several intended collaborations.
This fall, the RiverWalk steering committee took two field trips: to the Boston Harborwalk and to the Lewiston-Auburn Riverwalk. We were impressed with how the Harborwalk is integrated with both residential and office buildings. The “Chapter 91” regulations, implemented 30 years ago, require all new harbor-front development to construct and maintain their respective sections, including provisions for restrooms. And the Lewiston-Auburn economic development and planning staff work effectively with the Androscoggin Land Trust and both police departments. Both trails contain interesting and impressive public art. While the L/A trail is more to our scale, we came away inspired by the people we met and by their perseverance over many decades. Clearly we stand on their shoulders and are doing pretty well because of it.
UPDATE: FEBRUARY 2012:
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE BIDDEFORD RIVERWALK PROJECT, ANYWAY?
For those of you who have followed the Biddeford RiverWalk project with growing excitement, it may seem as if there is a flurry of activity and then… silence. While this is to be expected, due to seasonal limitations (such as snow and ice, yes–even this winter), pauses to obtain additional funding or permits, and various other unforeseen circumstances, periodic updates are in order.
Over the past few months, a number of pieces have fallen into place: Phase One is now complete, featuring a new approach from Mechanics Park and a new RiverWalk entrance. Granite steps, a series of plantings, new lighting and cobblestones make an attractive gateway to RiverWalk Plaza, an overlook that offers sweeping views of the Saco River, both upriver and down. In addition, the City of Biddeford took ownership of land between North Dam Mill and the Mill at Saco Falls, acquired from the former Florida Power & Light, now NextEra.
What’s coming up?
Looking ahead, the next phase of work will concentrate on the approach to the new pedestrian bridge, linking North Dam Mill with Saco Island and the Mattson mill. Once completed, hopefully during the upcoming summer, the bridge will offer unprecedented off-road access between Saco and Biddeford, and to the Amtrak Station between both cities. Negotiations continue with area businesses to create a number of access points in and around the RiverWalk. “Wayfinding” signage will be installed to direct RiverWalk users downtown and from downtown to the RiverWalk.
How about public art?
Since the project’s inception, we have been dedicated to incorporating a number of pieces of public art, sited at appropriate locations along the route. We think this will only enhance a visitor’s experience. We plan to work with the nonprofit Engine and others to fund, site and install new pieces of art as soon as possible.
What’s the broader vision?
The Biddeford RiverWalk sits at the crossroads of local, regional, statewide and national trails—a fact that we find somewhat unique and compelling. Not only will the Riverwalk intersect with city trails, it also will connect with Saco Bay trails, the Eastern Trail and the East Coast Greenway (from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida). As such, it can be the catalyst for further trail development across the city—and as an economic, cultural, historic, environmental and educational amenity for Biddeford, Saco and beyond.
Can we visit the site?
Although Phase One of the RiverWalk is complete, it is not yet officially “open” because there are still important issues such as maintenance, hours of operation, regulations, seasonal factors to consider and signage to be worked through. But if you are so inclined, take a walk over to North Dam Mill and check it out. If you are like us, you will recognize the bones of a wonderful new amenity taking shape. The entrance is located directly across from Mechanics Park. You’ll see the new stairs from across the street. We plan to hold an opening celebration later in the spring, once the plantings have taken root and the details are fine tuned. We will, of course, let you know about the timing.
Any upcoming public meetings?
We plan to hold a public meeting in mid-to-late March to discuss the new pedestrian bridge linking Biddeford with Saco, as mentioned above. This is a very exciting piece of the RiverWalk, where the views upriver and down will be spectacular, so we hope you will attend the meeting. Once a time, date and place are determined we will be sure to let you know. So stay tuned!
How do we get more information about the RiverWalk?
There are several ways to learn more about the RiverWalk: online at the City of Biddeford’s website www.biddefordmaine.org or through the Heart of Biddefordwww.heartofbiddeford.org. Or you can email Alix Hopkins, the Biddeford RiverWalk Coalition’s project director, at email@example.com. She can head you in the right direction…
The Coalition was formed in 2008 to help build public and political support for the RiverWalk, and to partner with and advise city staff on related issues. Over the past three years, a number of public meetings, articles and other communications have highlighted the vision and promoted the economic, historic, cultural and environmental value of connecting residents and visitors to the Saco River from Downtown, and from Downtown to the river.
We intend to hold a workshop sometime this winter to elicit feedback on this plan from the public. We will alert you to the time and location once it is set.
Visit the City of Biddeford’s RiverWalk page and click on the RiverWalk and Diamond Match project links listed at the right of the City’s home page.
Please share this link with your friends, and encourage them to contact me to be added to our mailing list. We will use the list thoughtfully and sparingly, we promise!
If you have feedback or related items of interest for future reference.
Seasons Greetings and thanks very much for your support. We look forward to working together in 2011 and beyond!
Biddeford RiverWalk Coalition Project Director
COMING SUMMER 2011, THE BIDDEFORD RIVERWALK!
Thank you for your interest in another exciting and progressive City of Biddeford project. Construction on Phase I of the RiverWalk is due to begin in earnest in the spring of 2011. For more information on the plans and the route, please click on the box at the right of the screen.
This web page is a portal that will link to a full web site which will include progress updates, photos and notices of meetings pertaining to the RiverWalk and related issues.
Welcome to the Biddeford RiverWalk Coalition. Our vision is to create an urban river walk along the Saco River between Mechanic’s Park via the Diamond Match property to Rotary Park in Biddeford, with connections across the river to Saco, to neighborhoods and businesses, and to nearby local, regional and national trails. The Coalition’s purpose is to help implement the Biddeford RiverWalk by:
- Building public and political support;
- Assisting with fundraising for a variety of needs, both organizationally and on the ground; and
- Providing the city with citizen perspectives regarding design, implementation and management.
The Biddeford RiverWalk Coalition (BRWC) provides leadership and guidance, undertakes tasks to advance the coalition’s purpose, and communicates issues and progress with a broader group of supporters. It also serves as a vehicle to help implement Biddeford’s Mill Master Plan and the ongoing Downtown Master Plan.
The BRWC is comprised of a diverse collection of individuals and representatives of agencies or groups interested in the RiverWalk, both in Biddeford and in Saco. Some of them include the Heart of Biddeford, the Biddeford Open Space Committee, Biddeford mill owners, municipal staff in both cities (planning, parks & recreation, public works), the Eastern Trail Alliance and Saco Bay Trails.
The BRWC is building a list of individuals and organizations that support this great project and the difference it will make to those who live, work and visit here in Biddeford.
For more information on how you can get involved, contact Biddeford RiverWalk Project Director, Alix Hopkins, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Alix your email address so she can add you to the list. And please, tell your friends. Help us to make the RiverWalk a reality!
The following conceptual plans help to illustrate the future of the RiverWalk.
A conceptual view of the RiverWalk from Mechanics Park to the Mill at Saco Falls.
An aerial view of the RiverWalk as seen from the Saco side of the river.
A view from the plaza looking up river by the historic boiler house.
View of the upper section of the RiverWalk as seen from the Saco side of the river.
Scenic view from the gate at North Dam Mill.
View of the planned pedestrian bridge looking down river from the North Dam Mill.
An aerial view of the RiverWalk looking up river.
View down river from the Mill at Saco Falls.
A view from the start of the RiverWalk at Mechanics Park.
An aerial view of the planned pedestrian bridge connecting the Biddeford and Saco mills.
Views of the planned pedestrian bridge between the Biddeford and Saco mills.
Seating and observation deck at the North Dam Mill.
RiverWalk access at the Mill at Saco Falls.