An artist’s rendering from last year shows the proposed Skowhegan River Park along the Kennebec River in downtown Skowhegan. Rendering courtesy of John Gutwin/Pepperchrome

SKOWHEGAN — The initial phase of construction for the long-planned Skowhegan River Park now has a majority of its funding in place with the recent announcement of nearly $5 million in federal money for the project.

The U.S. Department of Commerce announced last week that it will provide the funding to the town for the River Park, pushing the project closer to construction. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was enacted last year and amounts to a $1.9 trillion stimulus package to help the country recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Alejandra Castillo, assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said in a news release that the River Park project on the Kennebec River in downtown Skowhegan “will provide a unique opportunity to expand the capacity of visitors to experience Maine’s natural splendor while supporting business expansion and promoting economic resiliency.”

The River Park, formerly known as Run of River, will have the only adjustable wave on the Kennebec, which will allow for whitewater rafting competitions and other events. The left side of the river will be used as a fish passage.

The park will be accessible from downtown by a stairway and audience seating is planned. About 50 miles of trails also are proposed for the greater Skowhegan area.

The project is expected to “boost the outdoor recreation and local tourism industry by bringing new visitors to the city, the businesses and local attractions,” according to the news release. Officials expect 40 new jobs to come out of the project and for it to generate $38 million in private investment.


There are three major features that are part of the project: a kayak wave, located downriver from the walking bridge, a surf wave planned for rapids behind the municipal building, and another wave at the end of the gorge at the mouth of the Big Eddy.

Construction for the project is split into two phases, with the first stage costing an estimated $8.6 million. The second phase is expected to cost $4.3 million and will include a riverfront promenade.

A bit more than $6 million has been raised for the first phase of construction, and $2 million is in hand for the second round of construction.

The River Park is expected to generate revenue of $5.9 million annually for the state and $4.6 million for Somerset County.

U.S. Sen. Angus King said in the same news release that the investment will draw visitors to Skowhegan, “bringing new economic activity to the town and supporting already existing businesses.”

“This recreation area will be a much-needed source of revenue for the region and another great outdoor option for Maine people,” King said.

Officials had earlier raised money to conduct things like economic impact studies, environmental permits and designs, and final construction designs. In total these items cost a little over $1.2 million.

Skowhegan River Park is one of several ongoing projects in town.

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