Oct. 12—LEWISTON — A local rowing organization has secured enough funding to purchase a $25,850 dock system at Simard-Payne Memorial Park, turning a temporary fixture along the Androscoggin River into a permanent one.
Lewiston Rowing, a community rowing association that blossomed this year, has received multiple grants following the first L/A Riverfest in July, which included a regatta that attracted rowing clubs from as far away as Massachusetts.
For that event, the organization used a temporary dock, drawing a few hundred people to the Androscoggin River to watch the races and take part in other activities meant to showcase the waterway. The dock also allowed Lewiston Rowing to conduct a three-week educational program with the Root Cellar and Tree Street Youth, and a wellness rowing program for city employees.
According to a city news release, Lewiston Rowing secured $15,000 in grants from Brookfield Renewables, the upriver dam owners, and the Head of the Charles, a Boston regatta that maintains a grant fund.
This week, Lewiston agreed to fund the difference, with the City Council allocating $10,850 toward the project from funds dedicated to implementing its Riverfront Island plan, a long-term planning document that has driven redevelopment efforts in the riverfront area.
The city news release said the Head of the Charles grant also includes funds dedicated to additional equipment, program design and training "in an effort to remove traditional rowing barriers by making the sport accessible to all youth and adults who wish to try the sport."
The expanded dock, slated for a spring installation, will be large enough to accommodate an eight-person shell and will add a kayak launch, according to Amy Smith, program director of Lewiston Rowing.
"The loaner from EZ Dock of Brunswick, Maine, worked well for singles, doubles and fours but was not long enough to accommodate our eight-person shell," she said. "Our goal is to keep the current dock and to lengthen it by two sections; this is the baseline for a robust rowing program. In addition, due to the consistent community use of the dock this summer for fishing and launching smaller paddle-powered boats, we would like to add a kayak launch."
According to a City Council memo, Public Works personnel installed and removed the temporary dock this summer. Public Works is also slated to update the path to the dock.
Mary Ann Brenchick, Public Works director, was at the regatta in July, calling it "our own little Olympics." At the time, she told the Sun Journal that she remembered when, growing up in Rumford, the Androscoggin River was known for its polluted waters.
Now, that's changed. In addition to the rowing events this summer, staff observed several residents enjoying fishing and simply relaxing on the dock, she said.
"We feel this is just the beginning in developing an inclusive, athlete-focused program for both youth and adults while promoting family education on water safety," she said this week. "We strongly support this new program and floating dock system."
Smith said the second annual Riverfest Regatta is scheduled for June 18, 2022, with organizers hoping to build on the momentum from this year.
"We are so privileged and grateful to have such outstanding community partners as we bring this healthy, safe, lifelong sport to our youth and adults," she said.