As the 16th Annual Source to Sea Trek, sponsored by the Androscoggin River Watershed Council (ARWC), makes its way to Merrymeeting Bay, it will make a brief layover today, Thursday, August 4, in Downtown Lewiston-Auburn.
In partnership with the Great Falls Paddling Society, the canoe and kayak program of the Androscoggin Land Trust (ALT), two events are being offered to get local residents and visitors out on the Androscoggin River in the heart of Maine’s second-largest urban area.
When the business day comes to an end, ARWC and ALT, in partnership with the Young Professionals of the Lewiston-Auburn Area (YPLAA) invite paddling enthusiasts to meet them behind Festival Plaza in Downtown Auburn at 5:30 p.m. with their boats for the second installment of Paddle After Hours, sponsored by Gritty’s and the Hilton Garden Inn.
While YPLAA, a program of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, is partnering in promotion, the event is open to the public. Street parking is available; a short hand-carry distance is required. Light appetizers will be available after the paddle, compliments of Gritty’s L/A Brew Pub.
While the paddling distance is relatively short, a round-trip along the shores in this section offers a unique experience of the industrial revolution landscape of Lewiston-Auburn. ALT staff will lead a guided paddle and share the stories of how an area of the Androscoggin, once dominated by salmon runs and Native American activity, transitioned to a national powerhouse in textiles and shoes through the harnessing of the Androscoggin River and its canals.
“Making beer takes clean water,” said Thomas Wilson, Gritty’s marketing director. “People who paddle and play in the water also drink beer, so we’re happy to support the Androscoggin Land Trust’s Paddle After Hours.”
To demonstrate that support, Gritty McDuff’s L/A Brewpub, with its deck overlooking the Androscoggin, will host a reception with complimentary appetizers.
“The emergence of the downtown riverfront in L/A is certainly to become a calling card to attract visitors and new residents to the area; renovated mills, great downtown recreation among the relics of local history and hip brewpubs offering live music,” states Jonathan LaBonte, executive director of ALT. “The Androscoggin Land Trust is proud to be working in a leadership role to bring these types of events to the Androscoggin River in the communities we serve.”
In the morning, middle school-aged youth were scheduled to take part in the City of Auburn’s Summer Camp program. They will be given an opportunity to learn to paddle a canoe in the section of the Androscoggin River between the Lewiston Falls Dam and Deer Rips Dam. This section, offering relatively calm water, also parallels the City of Lewiston’s proposed Riverside Greenway Trail connecting Sunnyside Park to the David Rancourt River Preserve.
Jeff Parsons, owner of Bethel Outdoor Adventure and Campground, is donating his services and the use of canoes and other gear for the youth.
“This program gives our campers a chance to go out and experience what the community has to offer on the outdoor recreation side,” stated Jeremy Gatcomb, Recreation Program Leader for the Auburn Parks and Recreation Department. “By taking part in this program, they get to enjoy a fun and educational activity right in their own backyard.”
“Getting kids out on the Androscoggin is great in that it can open their eyes to the fact that they have this great recreational resource right in their own backyards and, hopefully, they go home and tell their parents and grandparents, who grew up in a time when this was a much different river, that they had fun,” said Jessie Perkins, Trek Coordinator for ARWC.
For those seeking more information or to request access to a canoe, calls can be made to the Androscoggin Land Trust at 782-2302. On-line registrations for the Paddle After Hours are requested and can be done at www.arwc.camp7.org or by calling the Androscoggin River Watershed Council at 754-8158.