Topsham’s planned improvements this year to Head of Tide Park, seen here in milder weather, include a gangway and float along the Cathance River for hand-carry boats. File

TOPSHAM — The town plans this summer to improve parking and build a hand-carry boat launch at Head of Tide Park, thanks in part to a $31,500 state grant.

The project is estimated to cost about $66,000, which would include labor and materials, design and permitting, and a 10% construction and materials contingency. Town Planner Rod Melanson said he hopes to pare down the cost.

The 12-acre Cathance River park, at 235 Cathance Road, is town-owned and stewarded by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. It has a 15-foot waterfall at the river’s highest tidal reach, hand-carry boat access on either side of the falls, a trailhead that connects to more than 7 miles of trails and picnic and parking areas.

Informational signs explain the history of the site, where a sawmill operated 300 years ago, followed by a feldspar mill.

Improvements to the parking lot, across the street from the park, include moving the entrance so it faces the park entrance. The boat launch would be built down the banking from the lot.

Topsham last year had sought $55,000, which was available through the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands’ Boating Facilities Fund, and had planned a $73,000 project.

The town did not receive the full funding it requested, but the state is providing a floating dock, which helped reduce the project cost to $66,553, Melanson said.

“We’re going to be meeting to actually reduce that total project cost,” he added.

That brings Topsham’s cost to about $35,000, which would be covered through $10,000 already budgeted for the work, Topsham Community Fund appropriations and in-kind Public Works materials and labor. Melanson said he hopes the $8,000 budget estimated last year for town work will “increase to cover the needed time and materials to complete the project.”

The town will develop detailed plans in order to receive permits from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers and the town, Melanson said. The town will determine what work must be contracted and what it can do with its own staff.

The work should be completed by December, Melanson said. While he is unaware of any user counts done at the park, he said the facility does see daily usage in times of good weather, based on maintenance.

It’s an asset that Angela Twitchell, executive director of the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, is excited to see improved.

“This latest addition to the park … has been part of the larger vision for the park from the beginning,” she said. “But it took years to conserve the land on which the launch will be built. We are so excited to have a safe and well-planned access to the upstream portion of the Cathance River.”

Boaters now have to put their vessels in across the street, at a location nearer the falls, in order to go upstream, Twitchell added.

“The new site will make access much easier and more welcoming,” she said. “The upstream section of river is quiet and relatively flat water with excellent opportunities for encountering turtles, ducks, herons and other interesting wildlife, making it a nice trip for novice paddlers.”

Comments are not available on this story.