NORWAY — Plans to construct a sidewalk from the downtown area to Lake Pennesseewassee Park off routes 117/118 are moving forward.

Officials say once completed, it will provide a safe and attractive route for pedestrians to access the park and nearby trails at the Roberts Preserve.

“This is quite a project,” Recreation Department Director Deb Partridge said. “It’s really exciting.”

“The plan is to apply for funds from the Maine Department of Transportation for the project,” Town Manager David Holt said Wednesday. The application may be made this spring after officials review the plans and evaluate the costs, he said.

To initiate the application process, Norway Downtown and the Norway Recreation Department partnered to fund the preliminary planning for the application.

“The first step is to create a design that will be funded by Norway Downtown and the Town of Norway (Recreation Department),” Andrea Burns, president of Norway Downtown, said. “If we fund the design requirement locally, it will move forward the project greatly with the MDOT.”

Last year, Norway Downtown asked Dan Stewart, MDOT’s Bicycle, Pedestrian, and Quality Community Program manager, to speak to the organization about the idea. According to Burns, Stewart came back with an engineer who called the project “very doable.”

Town officials then asked their engineer, Rob Prue, president of Pine Tree Engineering in Bath, to begin preliminary work. Prue told selectmen last week that the planning is under way.

While the plan may take as much as five years to come to fruition, Partridge said the sidewalk would connect with trails that go to Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris, making a four- or five-mile walking path.

“It opens up a huge, walkable community,” she said.

Norway has received a number of grants over the years for sidewalk improvements, including Rural Development and Community Development block grants that funded a new 1,000-foot sidewalk on Water Street; a Safe Routes to School grant in 2008 to build a sidewalk on Tucker Street; a Transportation Enhancement grant from the MDOT in 2005 to build a new sidewalk on Marston and School streets; and other project, according to information from Prue.

In some cases, the town paid for part of the sidewalk projects.

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