Mayor Louise MacLellan-Ruf acknowledges that she is passionate about the Harbor Trail, a five-mile walking path along the city waterfront that has been a dream in the community since 1991.

Part of the reason is that she lives in the South End and has seen for herself the results of paving and marking a safe piece of the trail to walk on.

"When there was a blank space, I could look out the window and wouldn't really see anybody walking," she said. "The minute that piece of the trail at Sandy Beach was put in, all of a sudden there were five people, 10 people, 20 people, all of our community out there walking."

She saw how that short section of path helped the elderly get out and walk around; how people in the neighborhood met each other and learned the names of their neighbors' dogs.

"I think the trail keeps us all connected to each other, to the community, absolutely to the art world, also to the beauty of what we're surrounded by, which is this magnificent waterfront," she said.

She, along with other members of the Harbor Trail Committee and city officials, sees an opportunity to complete the Harbor Trail as a project that will serve the local community, help beautify the city along the waterfront and serve as a place to showcase public art pieces in the art capital of Maine.

However, the city needs help to push the next phase of Harbor Trail construction into reality. For 25 years, this vision has been delayed because of other priorities.

The city has launched a crowd-funding campaign with a goal of raising $65,000 for the trail on indiegogo at

The city also plans to cut the costs of the project drastically by having the city's Public Services Department employees train to do the trail work in-house rather than hiring out contractors to do this work. MacLellan-Ruf and Assistant City Manager Audra Caler-Bell see this as the first step to Public Services performing other projects in the city, including work on roads and sidewalks, ultimately saving city taxpayers money.

The project is a big one and the $65,000 will only go toward part of it, including landscaping, benches and picnic tables, public art, trail easements and public restrooms.

Eventually, the plan is that the trail will continue uninterrupted from the entrance to the Rockland Breakwater in the north all the way along the downtown, over Lindsey Brook and to Snow Marine Park on Mechanic Street in the South End.

This year, work is expected to continue in the South End with the next segment along Atlantic Street. The Public Services crews will install stamped concrete bricks similar to sidewalk sections, that can come in a number of colors and could incorporate an artistic design, according to Caler-Bell and the mayor.

The Harbor Trail Committee is working with members of Arts In Rockland to make possible public art along the trail.

Another creative opportunity will be the benches along the trail. MacLellan-Ruf said the committee is considering incorporating creative benches, similar to creative street projects done in Belfast. The benches would be funded by individuals or local organizations. In some cases they might be a memorial in honor of a specific individual. In other cases, they may be creative artworks.

"We want to recognize those who contribute to building Harbor Trail," Caler-Bell wrote in a press release on the funding campaign. "All donations over $100 will have donors' names listed on plaques that will be included at specific locations along the trail. Donors who contribute over $1,000 can choose to have their name included on a bench or picnic table. Recognition for large donations that build major Harbor Trail infrastructure will be discussed with the donors."

The plan also eventually calls for the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Lindsey Brook connecting with the parking area behind Main Street next to the wastewater treatment plant. That is expected to cost between $50,000 and $70,000, Caler-Bell said.

Capital improvements for the Harbor Trail will also likely be discussed as the next proposed city budget is rolled out this week, April 20. However, in seeking the community's help directly and providing a chance for residents to fund and put their names on benches, tables and even the bricks of the trail itself, those who have supported the trail project for 25 years are optimistic.

They encourage even those who cannot contribute money to support the project by sharing stories about the trail and campaign with Facebook friends, emailing friends to tell them about the harbor trail and volunteering time on community events or projects to help with fundraising and trail beautification.

"Rockland is my community and our community," MacLellan-Ruf said. "And I like to live in beautiful places, and if that means planting a flower or making sure a parking lot is not built on green space, I am very passionate about what happens in my home."

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