Boys scramble onto the bridge spanning Cobbossee Lake in Manchester on July 21 as cars and boats pass by. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

MANCHESTER — Officials in Manchester say they plan to take measures to discourage use of the popular Outlet Bridge swimming spot.

Accordingly, officials are looking for other places where town residents can take a dip.

This summer, residents who live near the Outlet Bridge at the intersection of Pond and Collins roads, where Cobbossee Stream flows out of Cobbossee Lake, have complained to town and state officials the site has become unsafe.

Safety concerns stem from the number of people gathering and swimming there, and what residents say is unruly behavior, including drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.

Manchester is not lacking for bodies of water, including an extensive Cobbossee Lake shoreline, but the town is short on places where people can swim, unless they own waterfront property or belong to an organization with water access.

The town plans to add guardrails, “No Parking” signs and plants to discourage public swimming in the Outlet Bridge area.


While officials put those plans into motion, officials are also looking to secure access to another location where Manchester residents can swim.

“We’re taking away a swimming spot from people, even though I know it’s not an ideal spot, so I think we should work on creating a spot for people to go,” Selectman Doug Ide said Tuesday as selectmen discussed the Outlet Bridge swimming issues. “Manchester has so much waterfront, but no public access.”

Selectmen discussed the possibility of paying fees to private swimming areas, either in or near town, such as the Augusta County Club, which has a private beach for members, or the Cobbossee Yacht Club.

They also discussed reaching out to other communities — such as Readfield, which has a town beach — to see if arrangements could be made for Manchester residents to swim there, potentially subsidized by the town.

The Augusta Country Club, despite its name, is in Manchester, and while its beach for members is near the golf course, it is in Winthrop.

Other selectmen, including Paula Thomas, who was elected chairwoman of the board Tuesday, agreed the town should look to give residents a place where they can swim safely. She said she believed most of the users of the Outlet Bridge spot are from other communties.


Thomas said if the town were to find a new public swimming spot, it should be monitored so it does not turn into another Outlet.

On some hot days this summer, according to residents and officials, the Outlet attracts crowds of more than 50 swimmers. According to the complaint, some of those people get in the way of passing traffic, drink alcohol, smoke, do not watch their children closely, litter and get into fights.

To quell such activity, town officials said they plan to extend a guardrail at the intersection of Pond and Collins roads, about 100 feet up Collins Road, on the water side of the road.

The guardrail would extend across town-owned land that, other than the bridge, tends to attract the most swimmers.

Officials said they are also planning to:

• Ban parking on the other side of Collins Road.


• Check with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection about adding plants to the town-owned land along Collins Road to make the area less accessible.

Selectmen have agreed to leave a 3-foot gap along the guardrail to allow access for those going fishing or carrying canoes or kayaks to Cobbossee Stream.

Swimmers return to cars parked July 21 on Collins Road, along Cobbossee Lake in Manchester. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Selectmen Bob Gasper said he would like to encourage more people to use the area for fishing, canoeing or kayaking.

“If everyone was just doing that, we wouldn’t have to do anything,” he said, noting he stopped on a recent morning and five different groups were launching small boats there. “That’s why I think it’s important to leave a 3-foot gap, so people can carry their boats in and not get scratched up climbing over the guardrail.

“They do have to park somewhere, even if they’re just doing kayaks and canoes, which is what we want to encourage.”

Town Manager E. Patrick Gilbert said the guardrails will cost about $1,200, which he said could come from the town’s roads budget.

Selectmen considered but decided against putting up “No Public Access” or “No Swimming” signs while the town determines if approved changes address the problem. Some selectmen said enforcing such rules would be difficult.

They expressed interest, however, in setting time limits for the spot, such as not allowing public access after sunset.

During a recent meeting of town officials at the site, Maine State Police and Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office representatives said they would have their officers try to increase patrols near the site. Thomas said she saw an officer parked by the bridge this week.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story

filed under: