I had some time to kill before catching a bus back north while in Portland, ME. I decided to head out and explore the Fore River Trail, finding a gem of a place, exploring Thompson’s Point, and a place with a historic linkage to its industrial/commercial past. While the land use of long ago is no longer reflected in the activities that are going on there, relics from the past reminded me that not too long ago, this property represented a significant amount of economic activity. Now it looks like people park trucks there and perhaps warehouse some items in the dilapidated buildings peppered about the peninsula.
When you approach the trail, you can head off in a couple directions. Heading westish, leads you parallel to the rail tracks of what I believe is the Mountain Division Rail line. This is also parallel to the Fore River and the Fore River Santuary. Heading south, takes you around Thompson’s Point where you get more of a taste of the industrial/commercial side I was describing in the above paragraph.
When I went west on the trail adjacent to the rail line, the corridor is a actually owned by the electric utility. I encourage the building of trails on utility easements because they are essentially an underused resource. Yes, the electricity (magnetic radiation and the electricity actually) in large amounts is bad for you, I hear. Don’t build your house under the lines is how it should be stated.
While walking along the trail, I happened upon a number of people, but only one of which was enjoying the trail for its stated purpose. The remainder, had staked out little camps and were either sleeping, smoking, drinking, or some combination of the those. All activities that can be freely enjoyed, but it led me to think about the trail, the users of the space, and how I would feel if I were a young woman, or an elderly couple. I happen to be a large imposing fella and probably view situations quite differently than some others do, but I would be hesitant to recommend the trail to a woman looking for a safe place to run. I am not an expert on homelessness, but know enough to know that they aren’t bad people, however there is something disconcerting about running into a handful who are engaged in various stages of intoxication.
Personally however, I appreciate the juxtaposition of the natural world and our industrial past. Seeing nature retake what was taken from it has always been one of my little pleasures. As much damage as we can inflict, our time here is temporary and overgrowing weeds around a former industrial site reminds me of my temporary status. Speaking of temporary, there was a makeshift memorial for someone who I do not know or ever will know. I wonder about his life and who he had an impact on. Somebody found him important enough to construct this tribute.
Rest in peace….Mike Coppersmith.
Portland, ME has been making huge strides to improve bicycle and pedestrian connectivity throughout the city. Here is an abandon rail line that has been converted to a paved multi-use pathway (MUP). It runs from Elm Street behind the Eastern Mountain Sports/Trader Joe’s Store to the east end of the peninsula where it meets with other trails. The photo below was taken from the vantage point of Elm Street looking northeast.
Just to the left of the trail is the commercial area with TJs and EMS, but as you can see, there is no connection between the trail and the commercial area. You must go around the block.
Here is another view that displays the abandoned rail with some existing track infrastructure.
In talking to the manager of one of the stores in the plaza, I asked them about the missed opportunity. They indicated that the owner of the plaza property was angry at the city about the trail and felt that it was a taking that negatively affected him. I don’t know what exactly happened, but I am fairly certain that the abandoned rail right of way of the rail line is not the plaza owners property. He constructed the fence as a reaction to deny access from his property to the trail.
This is all hearsay of course and am not going to speculate on what really happened. Regardless it really represents a missed opportunity for increasing connections and promoting bicycling and walking as a mode of transportation to two places that seem to attract people interested in using those modes. Below is another picture of the route one must take around the block to access the plaza.