September 11th, 2015
By Gail Geraghty
Over 350 cyclists from 35 states will camp out on the grounds of the Bridgton Community Center Monday afternoon and overnight, Sept. 14, and Bridgton is ready to give them a warm welcome.
The cyclists should start to arrive around 1:30 p.m. after covering around 50 miles on the third day of their 350-mile trek through Southern and Western Maine. Residents should start to see them rolling up Route 117 from Sebago and Denmark, past Woods Pond to South High Street, and down Main Hill to Depot Street. When they leave on Tuesday, they’ll head out on Main Street and turn up Highland Road to Chadbourne Hill Road, passing through Waterford, where the North Waterford Congregational Church has planned a luncheon and rest stop.
There’ll be hundreds of volunteers to help the riders get comfortably settled — Bridgton Academy students will help them unload trucks, and the Lake Region High School’s Interact Club will also help out
The grounds of the Community Center will be transformed into a temporary tent city, as individual tents are set up for the bikers and larger tents for services such as bathrooms and first aid that will be needed.
Among organizations that have promised food and support are the Bridgton Lions Club, Rotary Club, the Greater Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and The Bridgton Economic Development Corporation. Downtown businesses are also planning to put out the welcome mat; The Depot Street Tap House is promising a lineup of entertainment.
The cyclists will be invited to step over the Bob Dunning Bridge and into the cool woods of Pondicherry Park for a hike, which will likely come as a welcome respite after hours in the saddle.
Nearly every department of Bridgton town government has been actively involved, with Planning Director Anne Krieg leading the charge. There’ll be an information booth on the Center grounds where anyone wishing to help out can speak to Krieg about last-minute needs.
Kim True, BikeMaine ride director, said she is very grateful to Bridgton and the other towns that are hosting overnight stays along the route — Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, Bethel, Sweden and Kennebunk — for their willingness to host a stopover. She said BikeMaine, for their part, will be featuring safety and educational events for school children and others during their stay.
“With increased bicycle traffic on the BikeMaine route between Sept. 12 and 19, all those who use these roads are encouraged to be patient, alert and mindful that Maine law requires a minimum of three feet clearance whenever a motorist is passing a bike,” True said. “Our riders’ safety is the highest priority. We’ll be working with local communities and law enforcement agencies to identify any problem spots so we can ensure an enjoyable and safe event for both bicyclist and motorist alike.”