A footbridge over the Kennebec River, below the Weston Station Dam in downtown Skowhegan. A portion of the river just downstream from the bridge is about where officials are planning to build River Park, which is expected to have enhanced whitewater waves to allow for whitewater kayaking, tubing and other activities. Morning Sentinel file

SKOWHEGAN — Construction of the whitewater park planned for Skowhegan has been delayed until next year.

The town’s Board of Selectmen approved a $18,755 contract Tuesday for preconstruction services from Orono-based Sargent Corp., the next step in moving the River Park project through its final phase of design.

But Sargent, the only company to bid for the contract, will not be able to complete its plans for construction methods until late this year, according to Kristina Cannon, president and CEO of Main Street Skowhegan, the nonprofit organization spearheading the park’s development in coordination with the town.

When the town put the project design out to bid in January, Cannon said she was hopeful construction would begin this summer. She said Tuesday that park organizers have now shifted their sights to 2025.

“We’re excited to have a contractor on board,” Cannon said, “and we’re excited to continue to move forward with the project.”

Completing the design and construction plans will hopefully allow the park to finish a complicated, multiagency permitting process, Cannon said.


“Permitting agencies have requested specifics about cofferdamming that we can’t provide without a contractor on board,” Cannon said, referring to a type of temporary dam used to block water from an area to make it safe for work.

When completed, the first phase is to include the first artificial, adjustable wave feature in the region, a river access path and in-river debris removal, according to plans.

Later phases of construction are expected to add more whitewater features for paddlers, a tubing channel, a trail system and other infrastructure.

Supporters of the River Park, previously known as Run of River, have said the park is expected to draw outdoor recreation tourism to the Skowhegan region and contribute millions of dollars to the local economy.

Construction for the first phase of the park is budgeted at $6.1 million, most of which is to come from a $4.89 million grant awarded in 2022 by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Another $1 million is to come from the town’s Sappi tax increment financing fund, with Main Street Skowhegan providing the rest.

In January, selectmen approved the use of $600,000 previously allocated from a Somerset County grant and the Sappi TIF for a final park design. Most of that went to Denver-based McLaughlin Whitewater, the contracted engineering firm involved in the park project, to develop the actual design, rather than construction methods, which fall to Sargent.

Cannon said the terms of Sargent’s contract stipulate that if construction estimates provided by McLaughlin and Sargent are within 10% of each other as the final design nears completion, Sargent is to be awarded the contract for the first phase of construction, without the need for another bid.

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