$25 Million Bond to Fund Revitalization Along Maine’s Rivers
Today communities have rediscovered clean and healthy rivers as a key to increasing economic opportunities and preserving Maine’s way of life. To seize this opportunity, leverage community investments, and bring about river-based economic revitalization projects, a bi-partisan group of legislators has introduced a $25 million Riverfront Community Development Bond. With more than 30,000 miles of rivers in the state, and more than half of Maine’s population living in riverfront communities, the potential benefits of a river bond are enormous.
“The rivers flowing through so many of Maine’s communities can provide both economic and community benefits,” said Senator Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, lead sponsor of the bill. “This bond will provide funds for communities to stimulate economic activity along their rivers whether it be restoring an abandoned mill or creating a river front park.”
Revitalized riverfronts are attractive to business and can enhance regional tourism, both of which boost local tax revenues. Two refurbished mills on the Androscoggin in Brunswick and Topsham have become magnets for small businesses. Restaurants in both these mills have become popular with tourists and residents alike.
“For centuries, the rivers of Maine have provided a network as useful to nature as to commerce,” said Rep. Thom Watson of Bath. “Then for a time we dirtied them, dammed them, and abused them without a thought. Since the Clean Water Act most of our rivers have come back, reminding us of the beautiful and intricate ecological systems that they are. Towns and cities along our rivers can draw upon this bond money to finance projects that promise further enhancement of our rivers and expanded public access to this great resource. It is time to put our rivers back to work – this time in cooperation with the environment, instead of in spite of it.”
“Many Maine communities are beginning to focus on rivers as an opportunity to attract business and improve the quality of life for their residents,” said John M. Rohman, of WBRC Architects and Engineers of Bangor, and chair of the Maine Arts Commission. “With a little boost from the state, towns and cities can find ways to leverage private and federal funds aimed at river restoration, and this bond will do just that.”
“In Old Town, we have seen strong support from our citizens for revitalizing our riverfront along the Penobscot,” said Peggy Daigle, Old Town’s Town Manager. “Since the city removed the abandoned Lily Tulip paper plate factory site and developed the riverfront park along with a new restaurant, a new business complex and converted an abandoned woolen mill into elderly housing, people are enjoying the Penobscot River year-round. The riverfront now provides a welcoming setting for the Canoe Hullabaloo, Old Town Riverfest, and summer concert series along with informal uses and family recreational activities.”
“Maine is a state rich in rivers,” said Bill Townsend of Canaan, president of Maine Rivers. “For much of the past century, Maine’s rivers have been polluted and neglected, but today the health of many Maine rivers has improved dramatically to the point that people can once again swim, fish, canoe, watch birds and enjoy playful afternoons at a riverfront park. Rivers can help make towns a better place to live.”
The lives of Maine people have always been intimately intertwined with the region’s waterways. For thousands of years Native Americans used Maine rivers for travel, food, and commerce. In the 1800’s rivers like the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin yielded tremendous catches of river herring, sturgeon and salmon and later powered the saw mills, tanneries and textile mills that led Maine into the industrial era. In many cases, water quality declined and populations of our once legendary fisheries suffered. The Clean Water Act coupled with river restoration projects have also begun to bring back long-diminished populations of sea-run fish and have helped to make our river ecosystems healthier and more vibrant.
For too long, the tremendous economic and natural resource values of Maine’s rivers have gone unrealized. The Riverfront Community Development Bond will help ensure our rivers remain healthy while also promoting community revitalization and compatible economic development, bringing economic returns year after year and improving the quality of life for Maine citizens.
Sen. Peggy Rotundo
Sen. Peter Mills
Rep. Theodore Koffman
Rep. Thom Watson
Rep. Jill Conover