July 31, 2018

Skowhegan's $4.9M Run of River whitewater park lands key grant

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, reported that funding for the planned $4.9 million Run of River whitewater park got a boost this week with $50,000 in grant money and designation as an Outdoor Institute Community Partner.

Funding for Skowhegan's planned $4.9 million Run of River whitewater park got a boost this week with $50,000 in grant money and designation as an Outdoor Institute Community Partner.

A Quimby Family Foundation Grant for $25,000 and a $25,000 matching gift from a Maine Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund will help cover some of the cost of required reviews necessary to get permits for the project, said Kristina Cannon, a Run of River Committee member and Main Street Skowhegan executive director.

The kayak park in the Kennebec Gorge, which runs behind Main Street, is expected to generate $6 million in revenue in its first year and up to $19 million by its 10th year.

"We are thrilled that we're gaining momentum with Run of River fundraising and that people believe in the project enough to invest," said Cannon in a news release. "We can't thank the Quimby Family Foundation and the donor enough for their support — it's tremendous."

The Outdoor Sports Institute Community Partner designation means support for training and use of the park.

For the past six months, the Run of River Committee has been working with project engineer Kleinschmidt Associates, architect McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, Brookfield Renewable, U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies to determine requirements for permitting.

Half of the $50,000 grant money will be used for onsite data collection, including surveying the riverbed to determine location of the remains of a railroad bridge that washed away during the April 1987 flood.

The fisheries review is required to get permits for the project, and data from the field work will be used to create computer-generated 3D hydraulic models for the review. The 3D models will cost an estimated $65,000, leaving a $40,000 gap in funding. While data is being gathered this summer, the committee will work to raise money to cover this gap.

Permit applications can be submitted once the review is done, and the permitting process is expected to take one to two years.

Construction would be in the summer of 2021, which will coincide with installation of a fish passage apparatus at Weston Dam, just upriver from the whitewater park site. The dam is owned by Brookfield Renewable.

A park for everyone

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The Kennebec River Gorge in Skowhegan will be the site of the Run of River whitewater park.

Caribou-based Outdoor Sports Institute will work with the Run of River Committee and Main Street Skowhegan to help boost use and understanding of the whitewater park, including training, programming, and providing outdoor gear to teach people the skills to use it safely.

"We are excited that OSI recognizes Skowhegan as a community that has great potential when it comes to outdoor recreation," said Cannon. "With the plans for the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area — which will be a venue for whitewater paddling, hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and more — it's critical that we engage our local residents and offer them the knowledge and tools to use the recreation area."

Training would be free and available to the public, and plans are in the works to create a gear locker that would allow residents to borrow equipment like kayaks, canoes, mountain bikes, cross-country skis, and more at no cost.

"We want to make sure that people from Skowhegan and the local area can get out and get active in the river and on the trails. We want Run of River to be more than just an attraction for people from away; we want it to benefit our local community members as well," said Cannon.

Main Street Skowhegan a few weeks ago received a $10,000 grant for development of a trail along the whitewater recreation area. The committee, Main Street Skowhegan, Somerset Woods Trustees, the Skowhegan Parks & Recreation Department and individuals from the area are working together to build the trail and a regional system, the release said.

"Run of River is going to be a game-changer for Skowhegan—economically and from a health and wellness perspective—and we're working hard to make sure the plan becomes a reality," Cannon said.

She told Mainebiz in April that while only 20% of the people a white water park draws will actually use it, according to economic surveys, "The rest come to watch," she says.

They also eat in local restaurants, shop and stay in local accommodations.

"There are still people who are skeptical, but once we get the features in the river, people are going to to get the idea," she said at the time. "They need a tangible vision, otherwise it's hard to get their head around. I think it's something people have never seen before and that's OK, we get that."

Aside from the yearly dollars generated, the 2016 economic survey also estimated it would create up to 171 jobs by the 10th year; generate a range of $270,000 to $480,000 in property tax revenues by its 10th year. State tax revenues could grow to a range of $364,000 to $656,000 a year.


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