May 27, 2013

Program lets public paddle Presumpscot

Westbrook will start renting kayaks and paddleboards as it tries to bring more people to the downtown river.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

WESTBROOK - Kayak owners and fishermen have already been making use of new docks on the Presumpscot River.

Soon, anyone with a credit card will be able to use the access to paddle around the downtown waterway.

Westbrook Community Services will launch its kayak and paddleboard rental program, called Presumpscot River Adventures, during the city's annual Together Days celebration Saturday.

"It's definitely quirky and different," said Community Services Director Maria Dorn. "I would hope everybody would give it a try."

Residents of the city will get to try out the new equipment for free from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Everyone else will pay the regular rental fees -- $10 per hour for a stand-up paddleboard or kayak and $15 per hour for a tandem kayak.

Beginning June 5, the equipment will be available for rent by the hour or for a half-day on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Guided kayak tours will be offered every other Tuesday evening from 6 to 7, starting June 11.

The Wednesday rentals will coincide with Community Services' summer concert series in Riverbank Park, which starts in July.

"How cool would it be to float down or paddle down and listen to the music?" Dorn said.

The rentals, which can be paid for with cash or a credit card, will be available in the rear left of Riverbank Park. Ramps and floats for getting onto the river are located in the park, off Ash Street, and on the other side of the river at the Brown Street Community Garden near Cottage Place.

The Westbrook Environmental Improvement Corp. and the Recreation and Conservation Commission funded the $38,000 cost of the docks, the 13 kayaks and two stand-up paddleboards, said Assistant City Administrator Bill Baker. He said he expects the revenue from rentals to cover the cost of staffing the program.

Installation of the ramps and floating docks this month was the first step in a larger effort by the city to get more people on the Presumpscot River.

City officials are in talks with Sappi Fine Paper about removing the company's dam at Saccarappa Falls, which could open up the falls for whitewater kayaking and create a free-flowing stretch of river for three miles, from Windham to Westbrook.

Baker said the eventual hope is for the city's portion of the Presumpscot to become "a paddling destination (that) will bring tourism and business growth and economic revitalization to the downtown and riverfront."

Julie Senter of Standish said she and her young children already visit Riverbank Park twice a week. She was there last week with her 5-year-old son, who was using the playground.

Senter said she'd be interested in renting a kayak for her and her 6-year-old.

"I think it's a great idea," she said. "It gives people an opportunity to utilize the park in a different way."

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

lbridgers@pressherald.com

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