NORRIDGEWOCK — A new dock and a self-service equipment rental unit mark Norridgewock’s latest effort to upgrade Oosoola Park.

The new facilities, installed the last week of June, came out of discussions among town officials about how the town could promote its recreational opportunities, Town Manager Richard LaBelle said. The park, which stretches along the Kennebec River off U.S. Route 2, is managed by the town’s Parks Committee.

“Over the course of the last half a dozen years, we’ve been talking about focus and how can we build our economy while still maintaining our small-town feel, and one of the biggest opportunities that we saw, an existing gap, was a connection to the river,” LaBelle said Wednesday. “So, how do we enhance people’s connection — whether it’s lifelong residents, or just folks passing through — how do we connect to the river?”

The rectangular-shaped dock provides a safer swimming area, a few dozen yards upstream from the park’s boat launch, LaBelle said. The dock, purchased from Maine-ly Docks in Oakland, cost the town about $37,000. The Select Board approved its purchase in September.

“There just isn’t an opportunity for a lot of folks to have that waterfront access,” LaBelle said. “And so, reaching people local and from away, that seemed like a logical solution.”

Meanwhile, the equipment rental unit solved another problem town officials were looking to address.


After a suggestion from a committee member, the town explored the possibility of renting canoes and kayaks itself, but the liability, labor and maintenance proved to be too costly, LaBelle said. Officials then considered installing storage lockers for residents’ equipment, and in the process, found a vendor offering the self-service rental unit.

“That was something everyone kind of got excited about because it didn’t require the town to carry liability and exposure,” LaBelle said. “It doesn’t require our manpower, labor to manage it. It just seemed like a great opportunity for us.”

Kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent are stored in a locker Tuesday next to a new dock on the Kennebec River at Oosoola Park in Norridgewock Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Rent.Fun, based in Michigan, operates dozens of units across the country, according to its website. Others in Maine are in Westbrook and Auburn.

To borrow one of the four kayaks and four stand-up paddleboards available, users download the company’s smartphone app, which collects payment information and unlocks the storage unit to the kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Each rental comes with a personal flotation device

Renters are charged $25 for the first two hours, and then $2.50 per 15 minutes.

According to information in the app, the vessels can be rented between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. — presumably, while it is light out. Renters must be at least 18 years old and meet certain weight, height and chest size requirements, per the terms of service.


The town paid $26,000 for a five-year lease of the eight-locker unit, which can be extended at the town’s pleasure, LaBelle said. Funding for the lease came from a tax increment financing, or TIF, account and was approved by the Select Board in December.

Per the terms of the lease, Rent.Fun shares 50% of revenue from the rental unit with Norridgewock. Projections show that the town would break even within five to 12 years, depending on usage, LaBelle said.

Richard Hilton Jr. of Norridgewock dives into the Kennebec River from a new dock Tuesday at Oosoola Park in Norridgewock. The dock is used for fishing and swimming, while an adjacent wooden dock, also new, is used by boaters. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The town is not liable for injuries or damage, according to LaBelle. Rent.Fun moves the unit off-site for the winter at its own expense, he said.

Other improvements to the park also are in the works. New, accessible playground equipment, funded by a $20,000 grant the town received from the New Balance Foundation, is expected to be installed later this summer, according to LaBelle.

The state Department of Transportation is also working with the town to apply for a federal grant to be used toward extending sidewalks to the park, enhancing pedestrian access, LaBelle said.

And the town is working on signage to put on the multi-use Madison Branch of the Kennebec River Rail, which celebrated its grand opening in June. Officials said the trail, like the Oosoola Park upgrades, will support the region’s outdoor recreation economy.

“It’s dovetailing together very nicely,” LaBelle said. “We’re anxious to see how that all comes together.”

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