Community Transformation through Outdoor Recreation
In the spring of 2016 residents of Skowhegan came together to share ideas for the future of our town. As a result of these discussions, Main Street Skowhegan drafted the Skowhegan Strategic Plan for Community Transformation, which was adopted by voters at the June 2016 town meeting.
The ultimate goal of the strategic plan is for Skowhegan to become a thriving economic, cultural, and recreational destination where residents are active, healthy, and they enjoy a high quality of life. In order to achieve this goal, several objectives and strategies were developed, including a strategy specifically devoted to enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities and promoting natural resources. In 2017, the importance of recreation to our region was reemphasized by residents during the Somerset County Rural Cultural Plan process.
To that end, the Town of Skowhegan, Main Street Skowhegan, and several other groups in town, are focused on outdoor recreation as a tool for community development. Planning and fundraising is underway for the proposed downtown Skowhegan Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area that will include a whitewater park for paddling, surfing, tubing, bodyboarding, stand-up paddle boarding, and more, as well as 300 acres of trails for use year-round.
But merely building a whitewater park and miles of trails is not enough to transform the culture of our community—we need to get our residents actively involved. By providing programming for outdoor recreation and engagement with nature, we will improve health outcomes, enhance quality of life, and cultivate an active lifestyle culture in Skowhegan and the region. We will also build a base of local users for the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area.
Main Street Skowhegan, in partnership with the Outdoor Sport Institute and other community stakeholders, developed this program to catalyze a cultural shift toward a more active lifestyle in Skowhegan—for the benefit of our residents. It provides a roadmap for promoting our current outdoor recreation facilities, encouraging walking and low-impact activities, providing skill-building and regular outdoor recreation programming, ensuring access to these activities, energizing volunteers to build capacity, and enhancing current trails and creating new ones.
Three full-time AmeriCorps members—under the guidance of Main Street Skowhegan and the team of community stakeholders—will implement this plan over the next three years (April 2019 to December 2021), assessing outcomes, tweaking strategies and action steps as needed to achieve our goal, and building a base of volunteers to sustain programming for years to come.
Facilitate changes in behavior that will increase outdoor recreation participation within the Skowhegan community by 20% in five years.
We will achieve this goal by growing awareness, knowledge, skills, and capacity in the first two years and by facilitating changes in behavior, systems, and practices in subsequent years.
DRIVE USE: Drive utilization of current recreation facilities and outdoor spaces in Skowhegan.
ENGAGE COMMUNITY: Engage adults and youth via ongoing outdoor activities and programming.
ENERGIZE VOLUNTEERS: Recruit and grow a core group of outdoor recreation leaders who can facilitate community programming.
IMPROVE ACCESSIBILITY: Make recreation facilities, gear, and programming accessible to community members regardless of socioeconomic status.
ENHANCE FACILITIES: Draft a comprehensive plan for enhancing current trails, creating new trails, and maintaining recreation facilities.