BETHEL — Riding a bike on the outer Sunday River Road, said resident Nancy Babcock, “is like going through land mines.”

Babcock was one of a handful of Newry residents who turned out for an informal public hearing Tuesday on a proposal to reconstruct a 1,200-foot stretch of the outer Sunday River Road, near the Nordic Knoll subdivision and Letter S swimming hole.

Selectmen had obtained a preliminary estimate of $300,000 from Main-Land Development Consultants for the project. They wanted to get local input about the road before proceeding with any other steps.

While the road can be tough on cyclists and cars, some at Tuesday’s meeting had a larger worry about the steep slope that comes down to the road.

“I can see a potential for catastrophic failure,” said Selectman Brooks Morton. “We get some heavy rain, there’s nowhere for the water to get off, to get away from Nordic Knoll all the way down. It follows the side of the road.”

Bruce Pierce and Charlie Bean agreed. “I think that potential has been there for years,” said Bean.

A large culvert that was installed in 2008 has water washing underneath it, and its three sections are separating, town officials said.

Resident David Walker, a member of the town Planning Board, said large rocks are popping up through the road pavement. He said the area needs a decent road bed. “The road also does not meet town standards in terms of grade,” he said.

The road climbs steeply just beyond the Letter S to an intersection with the Nordic Knoll subdivision. “The contractors that the town hires – their trucks have slid on that hill. I recall one of those plow trucks halfway into the Letter S,” said Walker.

But fixing the grade could be tricky, he said. Improving it could also increase the grade on the Nordic Knoll Road near the intersection. That could also increase the likelihood of drivers from the subdivision sliding into the road in winter and being hit by other drivers now traveling faster on an improved Sunday River Road.

Parking

Those gathered also discussed possible improvements to parking around the swimming hole. Walker said he had observed a maximum of about 10 cars parked at one time during the summer, on perhaps 10 different days. Vehicles park on both sides of the road, he said, and park as close to the swimming hole as possible.

He also said that in the busiest times quite a few out-of-state cars park there. “It’s a valuable resource for the recreational community,” he said.

Added Babcock, “I think the parking is fine right now, and I think it would be a shame to expand it and make it look like a big parking lot. I think it would take away from the charm of the swim hole.” She estimated there is room for about seven cars.

CEO Dave Bonney said some cars are parking on private land, and Morton said if that is the case it would be wise for the town to obtain an easement.

Engineering

The town officials said hiring an engineering company to plan the work would help ensure it got done correctly. “We would know what we’re getting,” said Morton.

A preliminary estimate from Main Land was about $50,000, Bonney said.

Selectboard Chair Wendy Hanscom said the board will next discuss whether to recommend at the annual Town Meeting putting the engineering work out to bid. The next board meeting is Dec. 3.


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