RICHMOND — For casual visitors to Richmond’s waterfront, recent investments have been a good thing.

“It looks 100 percent better,” lifelong resident Sylvia Averell said.

Work wrapped up at the end of April on a project to replace the bulkhead that supports the boat launch for the Swan Island ferry, operated by the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and now the season at the recreational area is underway.

“It took longer than anticipated,” John Pratte said. “We had some challenges with the ice and water conditions. We had early ice melt and flood, but the (Wyman and Simpson) workers did a good job and were good to work with.”

Pratte, a wildlife biologist, manages the recreational area that encompasses the island in the Kennebec River at the head of Merrymeeting Bay.

While residents like Averell could see the construction work in progress, they couldn’t see an equally important project that was also completed this spring.


“We rolled out an online reservation system,” Pratte said. Available both on Swan Island Wildlife Management Area’s Facebook page and on its website,, the system allows visitors to book a reservation for day use or for camping, sign up for events and reserve space on the ferry that serves the island.

“People have been asking if they can use their credit cards, because they might not have cash for firewood,” he said. “They can do it from their smart phones if they want.”

These projects, like the acquisition of the new ferry in 2015, are intended to attract more people to use the island recreation area.

“We have been incrementally growing our reservation rates over the last four year and we hope to see the trend continue,” he said.

With the new season comes an updated calendar of events, including lobster bakes once a month from June to September, the Swan Island Family Field Day on June 24, a road race in July as a part of Richmond Days, and a variety of wildlife and historical tours.

From now until June, Pratte said, school groups have scheduled outings on Mondays and Wednesdays.


The island, 4 miles long and up to three-quarters of a mile wide in the Kennebec River between Richmond and Dresden, offers camping, hiking and wildlife viewing. It was also once where nearly 100 people lived in the town of Perkins, abandoned since the 1940s. Some buildings remain at the north end of the island.

“We’re almost booked for Memorial Day weekend,” he said.

The construction project, which totaled about $300,000, replaced the bulkhead that supports the boat landing started in late November and wrapped up at the end of April with the paving of the parking lot. The project raised the level of the Richmond boat landing by 8 to 10 inches and contoured the space to take care of some erosion and reduce sedimentation from storm water run off.

It was scheduled for the winter months so that the native populations of sturgeon would not be disturbed.

During the course of the project, Pratte said Wyman and Simpson workers found the fill in the bulkhead area contained bricks and several dump truck loads of sawdust and a couple of bicycles.

“The way the crib work was constructed suggested there were buildings there at one time,” he said. “The Richmond waterfront seems to change every decade.”


For Averell, the work was worth it.

“It’s a beautiful spot and we’re lucky to have it,” she said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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