Organizers of the Skowhegan River Park, formerly known as Run of River, seek greater public access along the banks of the Kennebec River in downtown Skowhegan. The river, with the walking bridge stretching across it and downtown in the background, is shown in July 2021. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

The plan to develop the Skowhegan River Park has received its latest cash infusion, with the major downtown project securing its first corporate sponsor.

The Franklin Savings Bank Community Development Foundation has committed $30,000 to help fund the project that has been decades in the making and was previously known as Run of River.

It is the project’s second significant funding announcement this year, following news in March of $2 million in federal money.

The federal dollars are to be used to build shoreline seating, paved walkways and access trails, a riverfront promenade and other infrastructure improvements.

While the park committee has raised more than $2.6 million over the past five years, the group continues to raise money for the project.

Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, said the total estimated cost of construction of Phase 1 of the Skowhegan River Park, which includes river access on both sides of the Kennebec River, two enhanced whitewater wave features and viewing areas, is $8.6 million.


Park committee officials so far have raised just more than $3 million toward the first phase of construction, which is scheduled to begin in about a year, and the town has committed slightly more than $1 million.

The town of Skowhegan is also awaiting a decision on a $4.89 million U.S. Economic Development Administration grant application that would help fund construction of in-river wave features.

“Investing in our communities is a focus for us,” Tim Thompson, president of Farmington-based Franklin Savings Bank, said in a recent statement announcing the corporate sponsorship. “The river park has the potential for significant economic impact, and we’re proud to invest in this important regional project.”

Plans for the Skowhegan River Park call for redeveloping an industrial downtown river corridor into a recreation area with an expanded trail network and enhanced whitewater.

Cannon said the goal is to develop Skowhegan’s downtown Kennebec River gorge into a go-to venue for whitewater paddling and surf competitions and events, drawing thousands of people annually to southern Somerset County.

A 2016 economic impact study estimated $6 million in increased spending in just the first year of operation, with an anticipated increase of $19 million after 10 years.

“Skowhegan’s future river park will offer opportunities for our local community to get outside and active and use our natural asset — the beautiful Kennebec River,” Cannon said.

She said the project is also expected to attract visitors and new residents, bolstering the local economy and workforce.

“I hope the commitment from Franklin Savings Bank will help other local businesses buy into this project,” Cannon said. “It is happening, and now’s the time to pitch in to help us raise the remaining funds.”

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