The Waldoboro Board of Selectmen, on May 26, discussed the possibility of closing a portion of Friendship Street to traffic on weekends when downtown businesses reopen.
Selectman Jann Minzy said a resident called her with the suggestion and compared the idea to past closures of Friendship Street on Waldoboro Day.
She noted that the Rockland City Council had agreed to close Main Street to vehicles in order to facilitate an open-air market. The Rockland effort aims to attract shoppers and offset some of the loss of business due to COVID-19.
Minzy called the resident’s suggestion an “interesting thought” and, in response to a question, said the closure could start in front of Sproul Block Apartments.
Town Manager Julie Keizer said the town would need permission from the state for the closure. “That might be an issue with the truck traffic,” she said.
Board Chair Robert Butler said if the closure was only on weekends, it could work.
Keizer said Friendship Street, part of Route 220, is a truck route and trucks going to Friendship would need another route.
“You are just going to have some issues with the larger trucks that have to get to Friendship,” she said.
Selectman Katherine Winchenbach asked about the reasoning behind the idea.
The closure would allow residents to observe physical distancing while they shop outside, and could allow for outdoor seating at restaurants, according to Minzy.
Members of the business community had mixed reactions to the idea.
“It’s a nice idea and I wish there were more businesses in downtown Waldoboro. I wish we had an art walk,” said Caren Clark, of the Waldoboro Business Association.
“Being able to be outside and to see friends and neighbors would be nice and it would be great if The Narrows could do tapas or something with outdoor seating,” Clark said.
Amanda Nelson co-owns Long Winter Soap Co., at 11 Friendship St. “I like the idea in theory,” Nelson said. “I just wonder if it’s worth it for two businesses, even if we were selling in person.”
The Long Winter Soap Co. storefront remains closed due to the pandemic.
Keizer said she could ask the Maine Department of Transportation for permission, but the board should make a motion to authorize the request.
“I didn’t think we needed to take real action today,” Minzy said. “It is something to think about. We have done it for the last couple of years for a day every year.”
Minzy said the closures on Waldoboro Day start early in the morning and run through the evening. Waldoboro Day has been canceled for this year.
“It is something we have done for a day. I don’t know if we could do it for two days,” Minzy said.
Butler said he likes the idea.