VERONA ISLAND – While pedestrians are walking across the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge later this month, a parade of local boats will be sailing under the new span.
The parade of boats will be part of the Bridgewalk celebration planned for Saturday, Oct. 14. The Bridgewalk is planned to give local residents a chance to inspect the bridge before it opens to traffic later this year. An official opening and dedication is planned for June 2007.
“We wanted local people to come and take a look at the bridge,” said Alvion Kimball of Orland, the chairman of the committee working with the Maine Department of Transportation to plan the event. “It’s really geared for people who live within 30 or 40 miles of the bridge. We wanted to say to them, ‘This is your bridge, come and get a feel for it, walk on it and feel the wind in your face.'”
The bridge will be open for pedestrians between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Oct. 14. There will be representatives from the DOT available to answer questions about the bridge construction. The event has been in the planning stages for months and new details are still being added, Kimball said Monday.
“It’s like a wave,” he said. “It’s getting bigger by the moment.”
The bands from Bucksport and Searsport high schools will mark the event with a march across the span beginning a 10 a.m. They will be joined by a color guard and Civil War reenactors. In addition, Kimball said, organizers hope to include people who were present in 1931 when the Waldo-Hancock Bridge was opened to the public.
No official speeches are planned during the bridge walk, although invitations have gone out to local, state and federal officials including Gov. John Baldacci.
The boat parade is scheduled to pass under the bridge at 11:30 a.m. Among the boats that plan to participate in the parade are the schooner Bowdoin from Maine Maritime Academy, which is the state’s officials sailing vessel, and the Sunbeam from the Maine Seacoast Mission.
Boats will assemble at Odom’s Ledge in the Penobscot River at 10:30 a.m. Anyone interested in participating should contact the Bucksport Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, 469-6818. Limited berthing will be available at the Port Harbor Marina at the outside docks, and at the Bucksport town dock. Boats are normally limited to one hour at the town dock, although exceptions can be cleared through deputy harbor master Mike Ormsby, 469-7241.
The Penobscot Nation will bless the new bridge during a smudge ceremony at 12:30 p.m.
The observatory atop the western bridge tower in Prospect will not be open for the bridgewalk as originally planned. Officials say that it will not open until next spring. The DOT, however, will open the base of the tower so that the public can view the observatory and entrance and plaza. Since that site is only accessible through Fort Knox Historic Site, the Maine Department of Conservation has agreed to open the fort to the public free of charge for that day.
Although no vendors will be allowed on the bridge itself, several businesses and organizations will have booths set up on the Verona approach to the bridge and will sell food and bridge T-shirts. Local bands, including Don Blodgett’s Downeast Dixieland Jazz Band and the Willie Kelly Band also will perform.
The biggest difficulty for the event will be parking, Kimball said. There will be no parking at the bridge site and parking at Fort Knox will be limited. Organizers are encouraging visitors to park at public lots in downtown Bucksport and at Perry’s Variety in Stockton Springs. The committee will provide handicapped accessible shuttle buses form the variety store and from the Congregational Church and the Riverside Cafe in Bucksport throughout the day.