WATERVILLE — The Quarry Road Recreation Area has had a successful year, netting $22,000 already of the $25,000 in revenue it proposed to generate annually from events and tickets, according to Parks & Recreation Director Matt Skehan.
The city-owned recreation area has become a reliable place families can go to hike, cross country ski, snowshoe, sled and walk, Skehan told city councilors Tuesday.
“We’ve been here about seven years now and it’s growing and growing,” he said.
Newspaper stories, newsletter accounts and other press on social media have helped make the recreation area more known to the public, he said.
Colby College’s annual winter carnival from Jan. 17 to 19 drew 10 New England Small College Association teams with about 200 racers, he said. Waterville was the only place that could host the event because it had good snow conditions, and the people who attended spent money in the city, according to Skehan and Mayor Karen Heck.
“They’re staying, they’re eating, they’re fueling,” Skehan said.
Jennifer Olsen, executive director of Waterville Main Street, said her organization hosted a reception at Barrels Community Market downtown for racers and their families and the event drew about 50 people.
Heck said that sort of welcoming needs to happen more often. Visitors to the city have a lot of time after races end and before the next ones begin to attend events, she said.
“It just seems to me that as it’s growing, I do hope that Waterville Main Street really coordinates that with Colby,” she said.
Meanwhile, Skehan said that another youth festival Feb. 22 and 23 at Quarry Road is expected to draw 1,200 to 1,500 people.
Councilor Erik Thomas, D-Ward 4, asked about the status of $100,000 the city advanced to Friends of Quarry Road, a group that supports the recreation area.
Roy said the city advanced the money one and a half years ago to build the maintenance building at Quarry Road and is due to be paid back in September.
Kennebec Messalonskee Trails President Peter Garrett received a grant three years ago to conduct a map project for the recreation area and it’s nearly completed, Skehan said. The map includes directions and descriptions of various trails and sites, he said. He said about 1,500 maps will be printed initially, and the map will eventually be available online at KMTrails.org.
“It’s really a great map,” he said.
MORE REC ISSUES
The update on Quarry Road is part of Skehan’s larger report on Parks & Recreation activities in the city. He said the annual father-daughter dance will be Feb. 28 at Waterville Junior High School. Hundreds of girls attend the event with their fathers or other guardians.
“We make money — our department makes money — which is great,” Skehan said.
A discussion about the municipal pool prompted Heck and Thomas to ask Skehan to think about ways to move closer to making the operation pay for itself. Skehan had reported a net loss of $10,000 for the pool’s 2013 summer season. He said that outcome was the second-best year in 15 years.
Skehan said the worst year had a net loss of $35,000 to $40,000, or more.
Skehan said he doesn’t like to raise rates but understands the city wants to break even. Residential rates would have to be raised, since not enough people from out of town use the pool to make raising their rates make up the difference, Skehan said.
“Where are we in terms of capacity?” Thomas asked. “Could we attract more people, or is it already crowded?”
Skehan said the pool is always packed.
Heck said the pool situation is a great example of how a city’s finances are affected when the state shifts costs to property taxpayers. “I hope you’re calling your councilors and your senators and representatives because this is exactly what the Legislature and the governor are doing,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said the Parks & Recreation Department does a great job.
“There’s so much opportunity for people in this area to get out and to move and to exercise and do it in a safe place,” she said.
Councilor Karen Rancourt-Thomas, D-Ward 7, suggested the possibility of shortening hours at the pool as a way to save money. Councilor Dana Bushee, D-Ward 6, said it is the best pool in the area and always is full of people.
“So, if there’s something we could do to bring in more money, I think keeping it open for the kids in our communities would be my goal,” Bushee said.
Councilor Edward Lachowicz, D-Ward 2, wondered if scheduling evening swimming for adults would be an option, but Skehan said the pool area is not lit.
In another parks and recreation topic, Lachowicz said he would like to see the city’s pocket parks taken care of.
“That’s high on my (wish) list,” he said.
Skehan agreed with Lachowicz that those small parks scattered throughout the city need attention. “They’re definitely deteriorating,” he said.
In other matters, City Manager Michael Roy said councilors will meet 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 1, in the council chambers for a strategic planning meeting to discuss problems, priorities, strengths and weaknesses — and set goals for the city. The council last had such a meeting in 2007, he said.