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Bangor gets innovative (edge photo by Sienna Barstow)

BANGOR – When thinking of Bangor, Stephen King and Paul Bunyan come to mind, but soon high-speed internet access and a three-mile Greenbelt Walkway may be at the forefront. 

These ideas are part of the Innovative Neighborhood contest. The friendly contest, organized by former Bangor city councilor Sean Faircloth, called upon teams of residents to submit ideas for improving their own neighborhoods, as well as ways to benefit the city as a whole.

Faircloth first thought of this competition during his time as mayor.

“This friendly competition encourages great ideas from citizens, not just government,” he said.

The neighborhood teams gathered throughout the spring and summer to brainstorm. They thought up ideas of anaerobic curbside composting service, a three-mile Greenbelt Walkway, developing a mobile app to accommodate walking tours of the city, building a multi-generational recreation space, starting an annual neighborhood music and arts festival and high-speed internet access.

Participant Mary Parsons claimed, “I don’t think of this as a competition, it’s a way to get excited about Bangor.”

The winners of the Innovative Neighborhood contest were announced at the November 28 Bangor Greendrinks event that took place at the Bangor Public Library. Winners of the contest were picked by five community judges and a citizen poll that was created by the Bangor Daily News. Winners received commemorative clocks as awards that will be displayed in City Hall.

Before Faircloth presented the awards, he made clear his feelings about the suggestions generated by these groups.

“I believe every single idea should happen,” he said.

The People’s Choice Awards went to the Vine Street team for their idea involving faster and cheaper internet. Vine residents want a public-private partnership between the city and an internet service provider. According to the proposal, the partnership would make Bangor the Silicon Valley of Maine, meaning younger people would be drawn to the area.

Eastern Maine Medical Center President Donna Russell-Cook served as one of the community judges; she believes younger people are needed in Bangor.

“Our region faces significant demographic challenges as baby-boomers retire and we work to ensure we have a skilled, engaged workforce,” she said. “Bangor’s Innovative Neighbors competition is a dynamic strategy that could make the City of Bangor a model for other cities around the United States.”

The Fruit Street Team also won awards for their Greenbelt Walkway award. Fruit Street wants to build a three-mile Greenway on the city’s east side to bolster existing stretches of the walkway already used by pedestrians. The walkway would extend from Penobscot River at Cascade Park to the Penjajawoc Preserve, the path would build off progress made on the Bangor Trail Committee’s Trail 5, which will be completed in 2018 and connect Stillwater Avenue to Mt. Hope Avenue.

This is the first year for the Innovative Neighborhood contest and certainly not the last.

Husson University President and CEO Robert A. Clark, a community judge, stated, “I’m looking forward to Innovative Neighborhoods becoming an annual tradition generating new ideas.”

To learn more, join the Bangor Innovative Neighborhoods group on Facebook. 

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