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Updated: July 18, 2022

Planned $8.6M Skowhegan River Park project gets first corporate sponsor

rendering showing people on the banks of and in a river Rendering / Courtesy, Skowhegan River Park Committee The Skowhegan River Park project, currently in Phase 1, will redevelop an industrial downtown river corridor into an accessible outdoor recreation area with an expanded trail network and enhanced whitewater waves.

The planned Skowhegan River Park has landed its first corporate sponsor, with Franklin Savings Bank committing $30,000 for the project.

Permitting and design to redevelop the industrial downtown river corridor into an outdoor recreation area is in progress. Construction, with an expected price tag of $8.6 million, is expected to start in July 2023. 

Franklin Savings' donation comes four months after the project secured $2 million in federal funding toward the construction of shoreline seating, paved walkways and access trails, a riverfront promenade and other infrastructure improvements to support the planned river park.

The town is also awaiting a decision on a $4.89 million Economic Development Administration grant application to fund construction of in-river wave features. The Skowhegan River Park Committee continues to fundraise for the project, after raising more than $2.6 million over the last five years.

"Franklin Savings Bank's donation to the project shows tremendous commitment to the region," said Kristina Cannon, Maine Street Skowhegan's executive director and Skowhegan River Park Committee member leading project management and fundraising. 

"The river park is a community and economic development project at its finest that will not only benefit residents through improved river access and free recreation opportunities, but it will also bolster the regional economy by attracting visitors, businesses and new residents," she added. 

Timeline and economic impact

Cannon told Mainebiz that in-river construction is expected to take place from July through October of next year and will hopefully be wrapped up in one season.

"Assuming all goes as planned," she said, "we hope to officially open the park during the summer of 2024."

Cannon was honored on the Mainebiz Next List in 2019.

When completed, the park will include the only adjustable wave in the northeastern United States for paddling, river surfing, standup paddle boarding, bodyboarding and tubing, along with an estimated 50 miles of multi-use trails accessible via downtown.

A 2016 economic impact study estimates the area could see an increase of $6 million in consumer spending during the first year of operation.

The Skowhegan River Park Committee is working on the project with McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, of Colorado, and VHB, a civil engineering company based in South Portland. A general contractor has not yet been hired, according to Cannon.

Franklin Savings Bank, which is based in Farmington, serves western, central and Downeast regions of Maine from eight locations, including Skowhegan. With assets of $527.8 million as of June 30, 2021, the bank was ranked No. 18 among Maine-based banks in the 2022 Mainebiz Book of Lists.

"Investing in our communities is a focus for us," said Tim Thompson, president of Franklin Savings Bank. "The river park has the potential for significant economic impact, and we're proud to invest in this important regional project."

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