AUBURN — With the heat of the summer unrelenting, locals are no doubt looking for places to cool off. 

But, apparently word has spread about one place in particular: Lake Grove Park in Auburn, or as it was known for years, the Auburn outlet.

According to city staff, Lake Grove Park has been one of the busiest parks in the city over the past year, due in part to investments the city made in a new playground, as well as a renewed focus on the water, with paddle boats and canoes available free of charge.

Water quality issues that have previously plagued the swimming hole are also — for now at least — in the rearview mirror.

Jeremy Gatcomb, recreation facilities operations manager in Auburn, said staff conducts weekly water quality tests, and “so far they have all passed.”

“With the heat and humidity over the last couple of weeks it has been a very popular destination,” he said. “The ‘beach front’ is a shallow area to allow little ones the ability to get in without a steep drop right away.”


Lake Auburn feeds the outlet through a single, 25-foot-wide outlet spillway under Route 4. Fresh water follows along an 8-foot-deep stream through the pond and runs out through a spillway into Bobbin Mill Brook, under Fair Street. Because it is relatively shallow, the water can at times be stagnant and susceptible to water quality issues due to factors like weather and wildlife.

While the outlet was used as a swimming hole for decades, poor water quality forced its closure starting in 2013. Auburn officials, frustrated that the city was without a public swimming area, revived talks on how to breathe new life into the aging park in 2020.

It was tested six times in 2020, and the water exceeded E. coli levels in two of the samples. In 2021, the water was tested nine times in June and July, and only one test would have resulted in the beach’s closure.

Seth Leighton, Auburn Recreation Department park ranger, takes a break out of the sun Wednesday morning while waiting for customers at Lake Grove Park in Auburn. Several types of watercrafts are available for visitors to use at the public beach, which is one of the few places people can visit for free. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

In the years since, staff has continually tested the water and had more consistent luck. But it also coincided with the addition of new playground equipment and watercraft, so even if swimming had to be paused, people could still be on the water.

Gatcomb said the new playground has made it a “destination park” for not only the Auburn community but surrounding ones as well, especially being so close to Turner off Route 4.

Swimming is considered “swim at your own risk” due to no lifeguards on staff, but the Recreation Department has “park rangers” on staff seven days a week that assist with the use of the boats. There’s also lawn games available for people to use.


Gatcomb said there’s also some additional paddle boats and canoes coming in the next month, and there are more park upgrades in the works.

“There is a continued focus to provide the Auburn community with these outdoor opportunities, and by the attendance and cars parked you can see it is appreciated and being used,” he said.

City Manager Phil Crowell said the park has seen “incredible use by the public.”

Lake Grove Park, once called the municipal outlet beach and park, is at 2 Fair St. According to the city’s website, the park also has picnic tables, gazebos and grills. It’s open to the public, free of charge, from dawn until dusk.

Dalton Turro giggles Wednesday morning as he explores the newly installed playground at Lake Grove Park in Auburn. Watching him is his mother Brittany, left, sister Kira Patterson, middle, and grandmother Lorna Joy. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

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