AUGUSTA — Kris Weeks Oliveri has been walking the trails at the Viles Arboretum for years and recognizes that not everyone wants to get their feet wet when traversing the arboretum’s paths.

Now, with the installation of a new walkway and bridge across a wetland area on the north edge of the arboretum, that will be less of a problem for those who would like to get a closer look at what the wetlands along the north edge of the arboretum have to offer.

“It’s a bonus because so many people don’t like to get out where it’s wet,” said Weeks Oliveri, whose husband, Stephen, was arboretum director from 1997 to 2011. “And you really shouldn’t be walking on a wetland, so it gives the opportunity to see a wetland without damaging it or without getting bothered (by the wet). It adds another dimension to the place.”

Weeks Oliveri, who was spinning yarn on a drop spindle as she walked, joined about two dozen people who hiked out to the wetland area to watch it being unveiled on Saturday following the arboretum’s annual meeting and pancake breakfast.

Arriving at Saturday’s unveiling took months of design and planning and five days of intense labor to install the 520-foot-long walkway and bridge, as well a commitment of funds from state and private sources, including $134,800 from the state Bureau of Parks and Lands.

The walkway and bridge are the second such features the state Recreational Trails Program helped to finance, said Doug Beck, supervisor of Outdoor Recreation with the Bureau of Parks and Lands. As supervisor, he manages both the Land Water Conservation Program and the Recreational Trails Program and also oversees the Maine Conservation Corps.


“So, I’m a money guy,” Beck said, standing at the start of the boardwalk Saturday. “One of the things that was gnawing at me was that the boardwalk we funded before was not going to be sustainable.”

The new boardwalk at Viles Arboretum in Augusta is made with plastic decking. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Design issues on the earlier boardwalk that was completed around 2017, meant that it would not be sustainable over time, and at the same time, he saw a way to find funding to help pay for the new walkway with unspent funds leftover from other completed projects.

“Eventually, the money left over has to be deobligated from those projects and then obligated to a new project,” he said. “The timing was right to re-obligate the funds for a new project.”

Ryan Martin, executive director for the arboretum, had submitted a generic request for a small amount of money from Recreational Trail Programs for some signage, and was surprised when Beck notified him of the size of the award.

“This is obviously getting all the attention,” Martin said, indicating the walkway, but the signage project will be installed soon.

In addition to the state funds, the Elsie & William Viles Foundation, the Maine Timberlands Charitable Trust, and Kennebec Savings contributed funds, as did arboretum members and other individuals to the total project cost of $157,480, along with labor to help meet the 20% match requirement.

The deck and bridge, designed and installed by the Dock Guys LLC, replaced an earlier version that had been made of untreated wood that could not stand up to the high moisture in the wetlands. The new structure — the largest project for the Winslow-based company — is built on aluminum framing with galvanized steel posts with decking made from a sun-resistant high density polyethylene plastic.

“This thing is going to be here forever — longer than us, anyway,” Beck said. “It just leads to so many more opportunities for the work the arboretum does.”

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