Community Transformation Initiatives

In the spring of 2016 residents of Skowhegan came together to share ideas for the future of our town. As a result of these discussions, the Skowhegan Strategic Plan for Community Transformation was drafted, and voters adopted the plan at the June 2016 town meeting.

The ultimate goal of the strategic plan is for Skowhegan to become a thriving economic, cultural, and recreational destination where residents are active, healthy, and they enjoy a high quality of life. In order to achieve this goal, several objectives and strategies were developed, including a strategy specifically devoted to enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities and promoting natural resources. In 2017, the importance of recreation to our region was reemphasized by residents during the Somerset County Rural Cultural Plan process.

The Town of Skowhegan, Main Street Skowhegan, and several other groups in town, are focused on outdoor recreation as a tool for community development. To that end, two projects are underway to help Skowhegan achieve community transformation through outdoor recreation: the AmeriCorps Formula: Skowhegan Outdoor Recreation Action Plan, an initiative that will provide outdoor recreation activities, programming, and trainings free-of-charge to our community members,  and the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area, a recreation facility in downtown Skowhegan that will include a whitewater park for paddling, surfing, tubing, bodyboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, and more, as well as 300 acres of trails for use year-round.


AmeriCorps Formula: Skowhegan Outdoor Recreation Action Plan

Building a whitewater park and acres of trails in downtown Skowhegan is not enough to transform our community—we need to provide opportunities for our residents to get outside, get active, and engage with nature.

Main Street Skowhegan, in partnership with the Outdoor Sport Institute and other community stakeholders, developed the AmeriCorps Formula: Skowhegan Outdoor Recreation Action Plan for catalyzing a cultural shift toward a more active lifestyle in Skowhegan—specifically for the benefit of our residents.

The plan provides a roadmap for promoting our current outdoor recreation facilities, encouraging walking and low-impact activities, providing skill-building and regular outdoor recreation programming, ensuring access to these activities, energizing volunteers to build capacity, and enhancing current trails and creating new ones.

By providing programming for outdoor recreation and engagement with nature, we will improve

health outcomes, enhance quality of life, and cultivate an active lifestyle culture in Skowhegan and the region. We will also build a base of local users for the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area.

Two full-time AmeriCorps members—under the guidance of Main Street Skowhegan and the team of community stakeholders—will implement this plan over the next three years (April 2019 to April 2022), assessing outcomes, tweaking strategies and action steps as needed to achieve our goal, and building a base of volunteers to sustain programming for years to come.

Click here to download a copy of the plan.

Benefits

With a focus on inclusivity, physical activity, wellness, community development, and economic development and diversification, Run of River will bolster human connections and combat rising poverty, unemployment, and obesity rates in one of the poorest and least healthy counties in the state.

Need

With high poverty and unemployment rates and the health of our citizens at an all-time low, Skowhegan needs to utilize its natural assets and capitalize on outdoor recreation opportunities to improve the quality of life in our region.

In a recent Community Health Needs Assessment, Somerset ranked 15th out of 16 counties in health outcomes and dead last for quality of life.

Obesity rates have been rising among all age groups in Somerset County. As of 2016, more than a third (36.5%) of adults, nearly a fifth (18%) of high school students, and almost a quarter (22.7%) of middle schoolers are obese.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of Somerset County adults lead a sedentary lifestyle, with no leisure-time physical activity in the past month.

According to the most recent data, nearly a fifth of the county population is in poverty—and one quarter of all Somerset County children are in poverty.

Somerset County’s unemployment rate continues to be the second highest of all counties in the state.

In 2016 local paper mill Sappi—which currently represents 40 percent of Skowhegan’s tax base—was devalued by $64 million, resulting in a loss of $1.2 million in tax revenue for the town. The recent closures of Madison Paper and other mills around the state underscore how critical it is that we diversify the local economy.

Meanwhile, the outdoor recreation industry is booming, and whitewater paddling is a growing sport.

More than half of American travelers are considered adventure travelers, adding to the number of potential visitors—and the ensuing economic impact.

While there are dozens of wildly successful whitewater venues around the country, Run of River would be the first of its kind in New England.  It has the potential to make Skowhegan the go-to destination for regional whitewater recreation and events—and a compelling venue for major national events as well.

Fundraising

We invite you to help transform Skowhegan!


The Run of River Committee is seeking funds via grants, private donors, and foundations. For information on ways to give, please click here.

The total cost of the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area, which includes a whitewater park with three wave features, a slalom course, 300+ acres of trails accessible via downtown, a trail groomer, a two-mile riverfront promenade from downtown to the Kennebec Banks boat landing, signage, marketing, and a maintenance fund, is $10.5 million.

We are fundraising in phases, starting with Phase 1:

Phase 1:  $5.3 million

Progress toward Phase 1 fundraising goal: $1,523,000

30 %

Whitewater Park
>>Three wave features
>>River access trails
>>Terraced seating

For more details, please see the Run of River business plan.