SKOWHEGAN  — An anonymous donor has given $31,000 to the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area, a proposed whitewater park and expanded trail system that will be located in and around the Kennebec River Gorge in downtown Skowhegan.

The $31,000 donation brings the total raised for Run of River in the last nine months to $124,000, said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan.

Grants include $25,000 from the Quimby Family Foundation, a $25,000 matching gift from a Maine Community Foundation Donor Advised Fund, $40,000 from the Somerset County Tax Increment Financing Community Benefits Fund, and $3,000 raised via Skowhegan River Fest event proceeds.

“We’re so grateful to the donor for this amazing gift,” said Cannon, a Run of River Committee member. “We can’t thank them enough for believing in Skowhegan, this project, and the vision for community transformation through outdoor recreation.”

Downtown Skowhegan’s Run of River park is progressing gradually, including development of a digital model of the project. Contributed art by McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group

The funding follows another round of cash infusion for the planned Run of River white-water recreation park in downtown Skowhegan approved in November when the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen accepted almost $100,000 for the project.

The round of grants means $93,000 would be deposited from Main Street Skowhegan into the Run of River Reserve Account. The board also approved spending $24,650 from the same account for permits and additional data gathering in the downtown Kennebec River gorge, including a survey of the riverbed and an inspection of the gorge to determine the location of debris from the railroad bridge that washed away during the flood of 1987.

The total amount of money raised for the $5.3 million whitewater park now exceeds $1.56 million. In addition to pursuing grant funding, the Run of River Committee is gearing up for a major fundraising campaign to help raise the additional $3.7 million, according to Cannon.

The committee will use the latest donation to help cover costs of required permits from state and federal agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Total permitting costs are expected to be $180,000. The committee hopes to apply for permits this summer and has submitted several grant applications to raise the remaining $149,000.

Before applying for permits, final field work in the downtown river gorge must be completed, a project that was intended for November 2018 but was stalled by the early onset of winter weather. Data gathered from the field survey in the gorge will be used to create computer-generated 3-D hydraulic models for fisheries review, a requirement imposed by permitting agencies, Cannon said. Grant funding previously raised will cover the cost of field work and modeling.

The committee is planning for construction of the whitewater park — three whitewater features for boating, surfing and tubing; access trails; and terraced seating — during the summer of 2021, which will coincide with the installation of a fish passage at Weston Dam and ensure low water levels in the Skowhegan gorge, Cannon said.

The project also would improve physical and visual access to the gorge by creating two footpaths down to the river and terraced seating along the shore. Planning of the park began in 2004, and local officials finally saw a digital model of the park in February 2014.

An economic impact study released in 2016 predicted the project could generate $6 million in revenue and 43 new local jobs in just the first year of operation.

The study, released by Planning Decisions Inc., of Hallowell, in conjunction with Main Street Skowhegan, notes the project, with its man-made bumps and white-water rapids, also could produce as much as $19 million and as many as 136 local jobs in its 10th year of operation.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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