NORWAY — The Maine Trails Advisory Committee has awarded a $76,500 grant for the Norway Branch Rail Trail project, according to Town Manager Dennis Lajoie.

The trail for walkers and bicyclists would follow the former Norway Branch Railroad tracks for six-tenths of a mile, from Beal Street in Norway to Charles Street in Paris. Norway’s section would be to the sidewalk on Alpine Street.

Proponents of the project hope it will be used as an access route to Don Gouin Athletic Complex on Alpine Street and Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, which is at the four-way intersection of Alpine Street, Route 26 and Fair Street.

“A number of years ago, there were organizations, including Norway Downtown, that were working on enhancements to the downtown area, including building walking trails,” Lajoie told selectmen in March 2018. “One of the trails that the organizations had looked at in the past was the railroad trail from Beal Street to Alpine Street.”

Douglas Beck, the outdoor recreation supervisor of the Maine Trails Advisory Committee, wrote in an email that “while initial notice of the award is cause for celebration, there is still much work to be done before you have a fully executed project agreement.”

He said that while the “target for completion of this process is the end of February for a March 1 project start date,” the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry remains without a commissioner as newly-elected Gov. Janet Mills attempts to fill positions.

“The changing of the guard may impact our ability to meet the target,” Beck wrote in the email.

Lajoie said he wasn’t anticipating any work to begin until after spring.

“After that, we’ll have volunteers clearing brush and moving railroad ties from the trail,” Lajoie said. “The town will be responsible for removing it from the trail and bringing it to where it needs to go.”

He said the town is looking at completing the project in the fall, depending on how fast different phases are finished.

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