AUGUSTA — Bicentennial Nature Park will reopen this summer, with city councilors voting unanimously Thursday to spend money from the current year’s budget to make sure the swimming and sunning spot is ready in time for the start of the season.

The City Council closed the park last year to save about $40,000.

However, a citizens group that has secured commitments of donated money, materials and manual labor approached the city about reopening the park with a combination of private and public money.

City councilors agreed and voted Thursday evening to appropriate $9,900 from the unassigned fund balance, which is generally made up of funds left unspent from previous budgets, toward the cost of opening and running the park into the summer through at least this fiscal year.

Councilors are considering including funds in next year’s budget to keep the park running through this summer and open it again next year.

Leif Dahlin, city services director, said the funds approved Thursday would allow the park to open June 12.

“I feel confident we can get the park open with this budget in place,” Dahlin said.

The Friends of Bicentennial Nature Park has raised a total of $13,800 in private donations and commitments for in-kind labor and materials to help reopen the park, according to Cheryl Clukey, chairwoman of the Augusta Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and member of the friends group.

Private contributions include $4,000 in money and labor from the Augusta Rotary Club, a commitment to raise $2,700 for the park by the current class of the Kennebec Leadership Institute, and an offer from J.S. McCarthy to print 7,000 Bicentennial Nature Park brochures, with a value of $2,200.

“Those volunteers have done a great job in helping open Bicentennial Nature Park this year,” Mayor William Stokes said. “Thank you for all the help.”

Dahlin presented a budget to councilors Thursday estimating the park could be run for the season on about $31,000, between city funds, donations and user fees.

Councilors are expected to consider putting about $18,000 in the budget for the next fiscal year, which they are currently debating, to run the park for the rest of this summer and to reopen it again next summer.

The financial maneuvering is necessary because the park’s summer season straddles two fiscal years, City Manager William Bridgeo said.

Officials anticipate charging for day and seasonal passes to the park will generate an additional $5,000. Dahlin said charges probably would range from $2 for a youth day pass to $75 for a family season pass.

He said the park was carefully mothballed two years ago so he didn’t anticipate problems getting it ready in time for this season. Work includes putting in docks and floats and getting the plumbing system working.

The park off North Belfast Avenue on Three Corner Pond is the only public swimming spot on a lake in Augusta.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]


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