Paris paddling part of plan

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PARIS — Although residents won’t be able to use a revamped boat launch at the vacant Paris Utility District property this year, officials working on the project believe they are paddling in the right direction.

A view from Liz Knox's kayak shows the Little Androscoggin River's fall foliage. Applying for a grant to install a boat launch at the vacant Paris Utility District site on Paris Hill Road will have to wait until next year.
A view from Liz Knox’s kayak shows the Little Androscoggin River’s fall foliage. Applying for a grant to install a boat launch at the vacant Paris Utility District site on Paris Hill Road will have to wait until next year.

Earlier in April, Paris selectmen agreed to sign the 99-year lease with the PUD to allow the town access at 1 Paris Hill Road. The goal – as championed through the town’s Strategic Plan – is to transform the 7-acre site into a recreational hot spot.

This includes applying for grant money through the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund to construction a proper boat launch on the Little Androscoggin River. Currently, people use a broken cement pad to launch their kayaks and canoes onto the waterway, but the idea is create a new boat launch that would allow motorboat access as well.

At their April 25 meeting, selectmen approved Interim Town Manager Sawin Millett’s request to create an ad hoc committee to guide the future use of the property, made up of three members each from Recreation Committee and Paris Revitalization Committee.

At the Tuesday, April 26 Paris Revitalization Committee meeting, Carol Rice, Jackie Lynch and Carl Constanzi volunteered to join the new committee.

Rice – who has been spearheading the boat launch grant efforts – confirmed Monday, May 2, the boat launch project will have to be put off for another year. As part of the lease agreement, the town must submit an activity plan to the PUD for each activity that will be held at the site.

The new committee will create a plan template and present it to selectmen, she told the Advertiser Democrat in an email.

“The joint committee offers a wonderful opportunity for a group of folks dedicated to seeing 1 Paris Hill development move forward, including the ideas presented in the Strategic Plan,” Rice wrote.

“It does not seem possible (to me) for the new committee to get organized, do an activity plan and the state grant application all in the next few weeks. … We can have a very solid boat launch proposal next year, as much of the ground work (land access, background, supporters, etc.) has been accomplished this year.”

In addition to the boat launch, suggested uses for the property include hiking, cross-country skiing, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, ATVing and boating. The hope is to get picnic tables and barbecue pits at the property.

There are trails already at the site, which could be expanded. There is also an idea to establish a paddling trail, as suggested by the Norway/Paris Active Living Group, according to Constanzi.

“We talked about how Paris has this beautiful river flowing through it and it’s completely ignored,” he wrote to the Advertiser in an email. “We thought we could turn it into an attraction, beginning with the boat landing/park at the PUD property, then expanding from there into a water trail, both up and down the river.”

He noted this is why he volunteered to join the new ad hoc committee.

In a recent interview with the Advertiser, Rice mentioned some residents’ concerns about using taxpayer money for the project. She said the boat launch project should be able to be completed without taxpayer money because the town’s matching portion of the grant could use the property as this.

The Recreation Committee members for the ad hoc committee have not yet been designated. Even so, Rice is looking forward to continuing to work on the project.

“We can’t wait to meet with the recreation folks,” she said at last week’s committee meeting.

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