PARIS — A boat launch. A volleyball court. Picnic tables. A dog park. Scavenger hunts. These are just some of the ideas for the town’s new recreational space at the Paris Utility District (PUD) property on Paris Hill Road.
The 1 Paris Hill Committee held an open house on Saturday, May 20, to let people check out the 7.1-acre property – which has the same address as the committee’s name – and share their ideas for its future use. Shaker Hill Outdoors loaned kayaks for people to explore on the Little Androscoggin River and those who visited the site were enthusiastic about the future use of the building and land, according to committee chair Jackie Lynch.
Last year, the town of Paris signed a 99-year lease with the PUD to use the land and vacant building for recreational activities. An activity plan has to be submitted to the PUD for approval for each recreational activity, as there are still wells on site the PUD might need to access.
Paris resident Doug Wall attended the open house and had plenty of ideas for the site.
“The backwater here, I’d love to see that as an ice skating rink in the winter time,” he said as he pointed a little cove area on an aerial map of the property. “I also think out here on the island – I’ve walked this a lot of times – there are some beautiful spots that could have picnic tables and state park-style grills where you could have a little fire … and sit out there in the evening.”
He also suggested creating a volleyball court on a flat area of land near the knoll that overlooks the river. Other ideas residents suggested included playing horse shoes, fishing – as people have fished the river there over the years – creating trails that link to existing trails, establishing walking paths and having trail maps available, using the building as a warming house for the ice skating rink, hosting children’s activities, having bathrooms or a port-a-potty available and one of the most suggested ideas – redoing the boat launch for kayakers and the like.
With the blessing of selectmen, 1 Paris Hill Committee members applied for a grant for the boat launch. The current one is grown in and the cement has crumbled. A site visit with state officials should be scheduled within the next few weeks, which should move the grant process along, according to committee member Carol Rice.
“There are things in the pipeline. [State officials] are very helpful. They tell you what’s the best use, things you haven’t thought about like the Department of Environmental Protection [regulations],” she said. “I think we’ll be even smarter.”
“We are anxious to have the state inspection done and get some input,” Lynch said.
Ferg Lea from the Androscoggin River Watershed Council will design the boat launch for free, added committee vice chairman Carl Constanzi.
What the committee members have discovered through the open house is many people in the area were unaware of the property.
“They never knew it was here,” Rice said. “Everybody just goes by.”
“It’s fun that people are discovering it now that hadn’t even known about it before,” Lynch added.
And for those who visit the site will also discover there is a plethora of wildlife. There have been reports of river otters, blue herons, painted turtles and other wildlife at the site. Six-year-old Noah Bhatti from Paris visited the property with his mom on Saturday and said, “We found an eel!” He said it was brown and he wants to fish for bass in the river.
For updates on the site, visit Facebook and search “One Paris Hill.” To get on the mailing list, message the Facebook page or Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org. The committee is looking for one other member to join. Those interested can pick up an application at the Town Office, 33 Market Square.