Monmouth voters will decide next month whether to begin giving a face-lift to the town’s popular boat launch and beach.

The question in the Nov. 3 statewide election is asking voters to approve spending $50,000 to add parking and toilet facilities to the town’s boat launch on Cochnewagon Lake. If approved, the money would trigger a matching grant from the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, giving the town all of the $100,000 the project is expected to cost, Town Manager Curtis Lunt said.

Voters at the Town Meeting in June approved spending the money without a specific project in mind. The vote in November is needed to target that spending.

“We didn’t know about the grant availability when we put together a budget,” Lunt said.

The boat launch upgrade is the first of a three-phase project that includes increased parking and improved facilities at the boat launch and adjacent town beach. The town’s plans are following a master plan developed by engineers Wright Pierce, Lunt said.

“We’re trying to enhance the whole park,” he said. “This is one component of the master plan.”

Selectman Timothy McDonald, chairman of the town’s Economic Development Committee, said the plan to improve the beach and downtown parking was born out of a survey of committee members, who represent a cross section of the town.

“It was identified as one of the things people most wanted to see done and one of the things we could accomplish relatively quickly and without spending a lot of money,” McDonald said. “A lot of people use it.”

McDonald said the beach area is so popular, in fact, that officials have talked about reviving a beach in North Monmouth on Wilson Pond. McDonald said the beach is private but the owner has allowed public access. McDonald said reviving public use of the beach could alleviate some pressure at the Cochnewagon facility.

If voters approve the spending, the $100,000 would be spent to increase parking at the boat launch from five spaces to a dozen or more, Lunt said. The money also would pay for a vault toilet, a waterless outhouse similar to those used at state parks, Lunt said. There are no toilet facilities at the park now.

Lunt said selectmen hope to gain Planning Board approval and complete the permitting process to send the project out to bid this winter. The board hopes the work will be completed next spring.

McDonald said boaters have complained about a lack of parking and bathrooms.

“Providing restroom facilities is a big deal,” McDonald said.

Timothy Jackson, owner of Jack’s Traps, which organizes an annual youth ice fishing derby on Cochnewagon that draws hundreds of people, said the town’s plans are a good start, but he is disappointed they do not include upgrades to the boat ramp itself and a new dock. Jackson said the existing dock is small and tends to sink when more than one person stands on it.

“It’s just old,” Jackson said. “There’s no room for a kid to cast a bobber off it without bothering the person putting a boat in. If they put a little T in, a couple of kids could fish off it.”

Jackson said the ramp, too, needs repair. He recalled a friend who injured an ankle when her foot slipped between the concrete blocks while putting in a kayak.

“It just needs to be taken care of,” Jackson said. “It’s time for some upgrades down there.”

Lunt said plans do not include upgrades to the ramp or dock. Parking and bathroom facilities have generated the most complaints, he said.

“That’s really what’s missing,” Lunt said. “The existing dock and ramp work fine. If there’s money left over, we’ll do what we can.”

Jackson commended the town for making the beach a safe, pleasant place to visit. The lake itself has improved in water clarity and fishing with a plethora of trout and perch. The beach and boat launch are in a great position to become a centerpiece for the town. He said he appreciates the town’s attempts to make that happen.

“Anything is a start,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything change down there in 10 years. It’s time. Whatever they do, I’m sure, will be an improvement.”

The second phase of the master plan is to increase parking at the adjacent beach, which Lunt said is expected to cost about another $100,000. The town has set aside money from its Tax Increment Finance district to pay for that project, which Lunt said could begin as early as next summer.

The TIF, which the town created to capture extra tax revenue generated by upgrades to Central Maine Power Co.’s South Monmouth substation, allows the town to pay for projects designed to spur economic development in the downtown. Lunt said that includes parking at the beach, but it would not include projects in the master plan’s third and final phase, which include a platform or gazebolike structure to use as a presentation area and another vault toilet and a changing room. Lunt said the town will “have to find the funds” for that phase of the project. He said town officials will look for funding sources for the third phase in the coming months.

“We hope to have it done in a couple of years,” he said.

McDonald said the ultimate goal of the improvements is to draw more people into the downtown where they will spend their money at local stores and restaurants. That was the hope when the town created the tax district.

“It’s pretty exciting to finally see something happening,” McDonald said. “I’ve worked on economic development for many years. We’ve had some small successes, but this will be a fairly large one.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4


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