NEW SHARON — Paddlers, take notice.
State officials have developed plans to install two ramps that will provide easy access to a meandering flat-water section of the Sandy River that stretches between two sets of rapids.
Under the plan, one launch will be built at the Muddy Brook-Sandy River intersection not far from the New Sharon village, and the other upstream some three miles near the Farmington town line at Farmington Falls just off Route 2.
Both will be of the “carry-on” variety, meaning they will be suited for small watercraft, such as canoes and kayaks that can be carried in and out of the river, as opposed to larger boats on trailers. Parking spaces will also be developed.
Representatives of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife outlined details of the plans at a meeting last week hosted at the Top of the Hill Grill restaurant hosted by owner Ed Perkins and resident Marshall Thombs.
Town officials and sporting groups were also represented at the meeting.
”They were so accommodating. They listened to what was going on and listened to peoples concerns,” state Rep. Tom Saviello, R-Wilton, a member of the Legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee said of the DIFW presentation. ”I think they were excited so many people were interested in what they were doing.”
DIFW Engineering Director Ron Taylor outlined the plans, which call for the ramps to consist of eight-foot wide concrete planks that will extend from dry ground into the water. Each will be placed on properties the state acquired in 2002 in long-term anticipation of the project.
The department has hired Dirigo Engineering of Fairfield to draw up specifics that will be used for permitting applications to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Taylor said.
”The schedule (for installation) is driven by the permitting process,” Taylor said. ”It could happen this year, but my opinion is it would more than likely be the summer of 2011. That would be my best guess.”
A majority of funding will come from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sport fishing restoration program, according to Taylor. ”The estimated costs at the conceptual time in 2002 was $30,000, but I expect they will be more than that now,” he said.
Each launch is expected to be well used for fishing and by individuals and families for casual paddling. The site near the town lines will be just below the rapids in Farmington Falls, and the downstream site a short distance above falls flowing under the Route 2 bridge in downtown New Sharon.
”It will be nice to have access to a nice stretch of the river,” Perkins said.
The Muddy Brook site is near the deteriorating Main Street bridge that was closed a couple of years ago by the state for safety reasons. That span reportedly is scheduled for removal in 2011 and local snowmobile club officials have talked about constructing a smaller bridge for that purpose in its place.
”The state made a really good presentation,’ said Thombs, who helped organize the meeting. ”They (the state) have had a longtime interest in access to the Sandy.”
Thombs credited Forrest Bonney of New Sharon, a retired trout specialist with the DIFW, with doing considerable work on the project.