For Mark Reeves, the news that Saturday’s Peaks to Portland Swim to Benefit Kids would go on as planned was “awesome.”

And he had no worries about any potential lingering problems from Thursday’s wastewater treatment accident that dumped a million gallons of partially treated sewage into Casco Bay near the race’s finish. The city announced Friday afternoon that a water quality test showed reduced levels of bacteria near East End Beach.

“No, I’m not concerned. I’m guessing that the quality of water is much better today than even the 20 or 22 years ago since the last time I swam,” Reeves said. “If they’ve done their testing, then I’m going to swim and I’m happy and honored to do it.”

Reeves, 49, and a native of Maine, lives in Ellijay, Georgia, with his husband, Scott Nichols. Coming back to Maine is an annual ritual, but this year Reeves had specifically planned to swim from Peaks Island to Portland’s East End Beach, a 2.4-mile route that he had done once before in 1995.

Reeves had committed thoroughly to training in lakes and was also the top fundraiser among the over 500 swimmers who registered for the race. On Friday, his sister, Beth Austin of Saco, made a donation to push Reeves’ total over $5,000.

“I grew up outside of Bangor and my siblings and I went to a Catholic grammar school,” Reeves said. “My parents worked all day. So when we were done with school, we had nowhere to go. The ‘Y’ stepped up and helped raise us and bring us up.”

There is still a chance – like there is every year – that the race could be canceled because of weather conditions.

“We would also like to let participants know that we have been in contact with the Coast Guard and the Harbor Master,” the YMCA stated in a press release. “Both the Coast Guard and the Harbor Master have warned us that they have fog concerns for (Saturday) morning. A final decision will not be made until start time – and it will come from the Coast Guard and Harbor Master.”

The Peaks to Portland swim has been a marquee fundraiser for the YMCA of Southern Maine for the past 37 years. But as late as 4 p.m. Friday, officials were still waiting for the results of a water quality test to determine if East End Beach could be reopened and if the race would go on.

As the YMCA waited for the test results, organizers continued to process the modest stream of swimmers and their support kayakers arriving at the YMCA Friday afternoon to pick up their registration packets.

“If the race is on, I’m going to swim,” said Dave Harden of Kennebunk. Harden was planning on doing the Peaks to Portland for the first time in about 10 years.

When Jen Chadwick of Yarmouth first heard about the sewage spill she was, “disappointed because I’ve been training to do this and I was also grossed out.”

But as she was picking up her swim packet at the YMCA, Chadwick said she’s ready to swim and hopeful that rains, tides and time will “dissipate the funk.”

“I’m going to do it. I have trust that they wouldn’t run the event if it isn’t safe,” Chadwick said.

Third-year race director Bob Dunfey said that was the attitude he encountered from most of the swimmers he’d met.

“They’re handling it quite well. People know it’s something that’s totally out of our control,” Dunfey said.

“I assume it would be somewhat like doing a marathon. You’ve put in a decent amount of time preparing for it, so unless you have a strong phobia you’re going to swim,” Harden said.

The Peaks to Portland Swim to Benefit Kids is put on by the YMCA of Southern Maine, with all proceeds benefiting the Y’s youth development programs. This year’s race is expected to raise over $180,000 through entry fees and the swimmers’ fundraising efforts.

Starting in 2016, swimmers were asked to fundraise. This year, if they committed to raising $400, the $125 entry fee is waived. Otherwise they are asked to pay the entry fee and generate at least another $200 either through fundraising or personal giving. The race has a strict no-refund policy regarding entry fees.

Steve Craig can be reached at 791-6413 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: SteveCCraig

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.