AUGUSTA — A city-owned camp on the shore of Three Cornered Pond is being used to help raise funds for Bicentennial Nature Park.

Two, one-week stays at the camp with its own gated entrance are being raffled off as a fundraiser for the city-run public park.

The city acquired the two-bedroom camp when it bought the 27-acre site in 1997 to build the park that features swimming and picnicking areas.

City officials said when they were approached by park supporters who wanted to raffle off time in the camp to help raise funds for the park’s operations, they mulled it over and agreed to the idea.

“The camp is used sparingly and only with the city manager’s permission,” said Leif Dahlin, city services director. “This seemed like an appropriate use because it benefits the park directly.”

The private nonprofit group Friends of Bicentennial Nature Park, not the city itself, is conducting the fundraiser. A maximum of 200 tickets will be sold at $25 for two chances to win one of two, six-night stays at the furnished camp, which has hot water, electricity, a small dock, and comes with the use of a canoe, life preservers and paddles.

It sits only a few feet from the clear waters of Three Cornered Pond. Though it is within the city-owned park, it is separated from the swimming and other public areas.

“We thought raffling (off time in the camp) would attract a lot of people. It’s a beautiful, private lakefront cabin,” said Cheryl Clukey, a leader of the friends group. “If it works, we hope to do it every year.”

Dahlin said neither city staff nor elected city officials are allowed to stay at the camp overnight. Sometimes staff meetings are held there during the day.

Dahlin said it would be problematic for the city to sell the camp, because the only access to it is through the park. He said selling the camp is not something city officials have considered.

Occasionally the city has allowed overnight use, such as allowing contractors working on city projects to stay there instead of putting them up in a hotel.

Also, in the summer of 2012, when the park was closed by the city to save funds, City Manager William Bridgeo allowed two police officers — a couple — who were new to the force and in need of a temporary place to live to rent the camp. Dahlin noted part of the reason for agreeing to that was the theory that having the officers living there would deter vandalism or other crimes at the park while it was unused that summer.

The 2012 closure of the park is part of what drives park supporters to raise funds to help defray the city’s costs of operating it.

In successfully lobbying for the park to be reopened the following summer, park supporters committed to raise $5,000 each year for its operations. The city also charges a fee for season and day passes to the park, which brings in another approximately $3,000 a year, Dahlin said.

Its annual budget is about $27,000.

Each year since making that commitment, private fundraising led by the Augusta Rotary Club has brought in at least $5,000 a year.

The raffle will be held June 8, so tickets must be bought before then. Tickets are available at Buker Community Center or by calling Clukey at 441-0337.

The park opens for the season June 20.

Clukey said the Friends hope to raise awareness of the park, too, not just funds.

She and Dahlin said the park is underutilized, and both said they’d like to see more people, especially kids, come enjoy the park’s natural waters and woods.

Daily attendance, per an agreement with other property owners on Three Cornered Pond, is limited to 150 people a day, a maximum Clukey said has never been reached.

“We want more people to use it. People seem to think it is 20 miles away, but it’s not. It’s just six miles from the city center,” Clukey said. “This is a beautiful park, and it is underutilized right now. Augusta doesn’t have a lot of access to a natural setting with water like this. There are a lot of needy kids and families in Augusta, and this provides great access. Yes, the city has swimming pools, but kids should be in nature.”

Dahlin confirmed the park, which is overseen daily over the summer by city staff, has the capacity to host more users.

The park is currently open only to Augusta residents and their guests.

Clukey proposed to the Augusta City Council in March to allow non-residents to purchase passes to use the park, both as a way to raise more money for the park and to increase its use.

She said residents of nearby towns such as Windsor and Chelsea asked if they could use the park. She suggested the city could charge non-residents roughly double the cost of admission charged to residents.

City councilors didn’t take any action on the proposal in March, but Clukey said she hopes they will take up the idea soon.

The park, once it opens June 20, will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Fees for the park are: Family, $25 for the season, $8 per carload a day; youth, $10 for the season or $1 a day; adult, $15 for the season or $2 a day; and senior citizens and veterans, $7.50 for the season or $1 a day.

The park land off North Belfast Avenue was purchased for about $125,000 in 1997 — the city’s bicentennial year — and opened as a park in 2001.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj