Town considers fees to cover Saco River patrol and trash

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FRYEBURG – Town officials are batting around the idea of establishing user fees at a popular canoe launching site on the Saco River to help pay for the river’s police patrol and trash removal.

“This is to make this an enjoyable experience for people who want to canoe,” Town Manager Phil Covelli said Friday.

Covelli said the expense of putting two police officers on the town’s stretch of river every weekend from mid-June to Labor Day, as well as the transfer station’s costs of hauling away trash collected from the river, comes to more than $25,000 a year.

By asking those who park at the Canal Bridge site on Route 5 – the most heavily used boat launch in town – to pay $7 per car, Covelli estimated the town could bring in about $12,000.

Fryeburg’s volunteer parks committee and selectmen are holding a workshop May 18 to discuss this program. Most likely a public hearing will be scheduled in early June if they decide to push forward with it.

Since the police river patrol was started about four years ago. It consists of two officers running a motor boat along the river to the Brownfield line. Costs have doubled, Covelli said, because of boat insurance, equipment maintenance and associated expenses have increased. The first year’s budget was $10,000, he said.

The Saco River is an enormously popular river – its current is slow-moving and there is only one short rapid along that stretch of river. And people like to have fun when they go out, which means parties, beer, singing, picnicking and occasionally, fighting.

“On a typical weekend, you could have 3,000 people on that river,” he said. “If you get a weekend in August, and it’s 100 degrees, that could easily go to 5,000, 6,000 people.”

A coalition made up of businesses that profit from the river like canoe rental outfits pitch in to clean the river, spending about $39,000 on trash removal per season, Covelli said. That trash is hauled to Fryeburg’s transfer station.

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