Lori Johnson of Ellsworth talks with friend Sonya Connelly of Lamoine at Ellsworth's Harbor Park and Marina. City officials want to expand the park to make it more user-friendly.

Ellsworth hopes to start building the first leg of a walking trail along the Union River this summer that could eventually connect the city marina to its downtown.

City department heads are in discussions with the Ellsworth Harbor Commission about when to begin adding another 425 feet to the Ellsworth Harbor Park and Marina’s 175-foot brick walking trail. The plan is to run the path from the brick trail north along the river through an acre of former wastewater treatment plant land and then east to the plant’s former entrance onto Water Street near Deane Street, a few blocks south of Ellsworth’s Main Street. Construction should finish this fall, city Public Works Director Lisa Sekulich said.

The trail “ties the park together with that land as a real unified site. Looking to the future, it would be a good starting point if we were to add to its length,” Assistant City Planner Steve Fuller said.

Credit: Courtesy of the City of Ellsworth

City officials have long wanted to create walking paths or other pedestrian connections between several key parts of Ellsworth, City Manager David Cole has said.

“There is certainly a vision here,” Fuller said. “When we applied for this grant, we had gone through all the studies and plans that had been done, and a recurrent element was that people wanted a waterfront walkway.”

Improvements to the city’s waterfront park have proven important to helping continue the growth of the city’s private housing developments, Cole has said. The view of the Union River and proximity of Harbor Park are among the reasons Portland-area developer Matt Teare chose nearby Washington Street for his 50-unit development, the $9 million Oriole Way townhouse project, Teare has said.

Oriole Way’s construction is almost finished and several buildings have begun to fill with tenants, city officials said.

Credit: Courtesy of the City of Ellsworth

Ideally, the new path would connect Harbor Park to downtown as well as to shopping centers along Route 1A via Washington Street, Cole said. Route 1A also parallels another of the city’s prime recreation spaces, Cole said — one end of the 87-mile Down East Sunrise Trail.

But the development of such a networked trail is likely a long way from happening. City officials are in discussions with landowners along Water Street to see how the trail could run along Water Street from the marina to Route 1 ― at least 1,500 feet.

“There is an interest in how can we do that? That’s an ongoing conversation,” Fuller said. “We have heard from people that it is something that they would want to see.”

The trail will be the first recreational use of the wastewater plant land since the plant was razed about six years ago, Fuller said. Funded by a $50,000 grant from the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and $30,716 from a general obligation bond authorized in 2017, the new trail isn’t expected to have an impact on Ellsworth’s property taxes or operating budget.