Stroll through Pondicherry Park for all?

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Pondicherry Park is projected to draw 32,488 visits this year.

Yet, not everyone can enjoy a stroll through the intown 66-acre park because of their lack of full mobility — either due to being confined to a wheelchair or needing to use crutches.

Tom Perkins wants to create access for all.

Perkins, who is executive director of Loon Echo Land Trust, approached Bridgton selectmen Tuesday night regarding a proposal to upgrade 4,800 feet of forested trail, running alongside Stevens and Mill Brooks, enabling those with mobility issues a chance to enjoy the park.

In a letter to the board, Perkins said, “Being outdoors and getting into the forest for rejuvenation of the spirit and soul is a universal need of the human condition. Many opportunities exist for our able-bodied neighbors and visitors to get out into the woods and restore themselves. Loon Echo maintains 31 miles of trails to do just that. However, there is a glaring lack of a truly accessible trail for an underserved population limited by mobility. Loon Echo and the Town of Bridgton should correct this by reconstructing two trails within Pondicherry Park.”

The existing trail would be rebuilt, using a compacted crush-stone surface for multi-seasonal access and re-engineered drainage for all-weather durability.

Perkins estimated the cost at $34,554. While Loon Echo will look to secure grants to help pay for the work, Perkins requested that Bridgton contribute $8,554 — which could be covered by Moose Pond Trust money.

Selectman Bear Zaidman asked if two trails were made handicapped-accessible would other trails need to be upgraded to meet that standard, as well?

Perkins spoke with state officials regarding ADA compliance, and found that when it comes to nature trails, “there are no standards.” The trails will be known as “Accessible Trails.”

Before the town moves on the issue, Zaidman recommended that a workshop meeting be held with other groups, including Lakes Environmental Association and the Pondicherry Park Committee. Perkins joked that Loon Echo often moves at “glacial speed,” and said there was no hurry to embark on the project — he simply wanted to pitch the idea.

A workshop will be held sometime after the first of the new year.

In other selectmen news:

Outdoor seating allowed. Bear Bones is set to release its newest aged beer this weekend, and if Mother Nature continues to cooperate, the celebration could move outdoors.

Selectmen voted 5-0 to allow the “tasting room” on Cottage Street to expand seating to the back parking lot.

Eben Dingman, co-owner of the Lewiston-based brewery, requested the extension of the license to include outdoor seating as the business looks to offer live entertainment and comedy shows.

The current license is for 40 patrons, but Dingman said the tasting room is only seating 12 at this time. A movable barrier would be placed in the parking lot, designating the area where patrons can consume alcoholic beverages. Signs will be posted. Dingman said a mobile beer cart could be placed outdoors, and during cold weather months, an ice bar is a possibility.

Selectmen questioned how many special events, utilizing outdoor seating, were planned. Weather will be a factor in the winter months, while Bear Bones plans to hold Comedy Night on the first Thursday of each month.

Dingman said this weekend’s event would include two local bands playing inside, while Worth the Wait of Denmark will be tending a barbecue outdoors.

Code Enforcement Rob Baker voiced concerns over the reduction of parking spaces at the site, especially when second floor offices are eventually rented. Baker and Jim Kidder, director of Public Works and overseer of sewer allocations, also raised the issue of controlling the number of patrons at the facility at one time.

When Gastropub owner Will Holmes requested to set up outdoor seating, town officials required fencing around the area and entry through the pub area as a means to account for the number of patrons. Kidder suggested that Bear Bones be held to the same standard.

While Dingman admitted having customers enter solely through the main entrance (the front side of the building) was not “preferred,” he was willing to work with the town. Dingman noted that staff is trained to be “attentive” as to the number (and condition) of patrons at Bear Bones due to the product — beer — they sell.

Selectmen approved the request with three conditions attached: 1. Officials will review how the “extension” fared at the time of license renewal; 2. Seating capacity is not exceeded; 3. The current sewer allocation fee is paid in full immediately.

Who is the surveyer? Deputy Town Manager Georgiann Fleck recently received a call from a concerned citizen regarding an individual, who was representing himself as a town employee doing research on selected structures.

Fleck pointed out that anyone conducting work for the town is issued a photo ID, which must be displayed. In this case, Derik Goodine, former Naples town manager, is conducting a survey for the proposed wastewater project. He has been issued a Town of Bridgton photo ID.

Streets closed for Halloween. Three intown roadways — Elm, Chase and Iredale Streets — will be closed to vehicle traffic beginning at 5 p.m. on Halloween evening, Tuesday, Oct. 31, until approximately 9 p.m. for the safety of trick or treaters.

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