The Maine Public Broadcasting Network
Listen Live
Classical 24
Camden Voters to Weigh in on Ski Area Bonds
10/28/2013   Reported By: Jay Field

Statewide bonds and municipal issues tend to get more attention in off-year elections. Next Tuesday, voters in Maine will weigh in on five statewide questions and scores of local initiatives. In Camden, voters are being asked to approve a $2 million bond, as part of a public-private effort to redevelop and improve the only ski area on the midcoast.

Related Media
Camden Voters to Vote on Ski Area Listen

Teams of volunteers built the original Camden Snow Bowl during the New Deal, back in 1936. The property was temporarily deeded to the town of Camden, allowing money and manpower for trail grooming and road building to flow in from the Works Progress Administration. The Camden Outing Club managed the snow bowl for years, before turing it over to the town in 1983.

"It's like municipal government everywhere - when you're part of a municipal budget, you're in the queue with all the other departments," says Rick Knowlton, co-chair of the Ragged Mountain Redevelopment Committee.

The Snow Bowl has recieved $2 million from the town during the past 30 yeras, enough to pay basic operating costs, but too little to begin making badly-needed equipment upgrades and other improvements.

"Over here to the right, this is the big t-bar," Knowlton says. "We have two t-bars now, the big t and the little t. And the big t-bar is the only lift that goes to the top of the mountain. Our primary lift is this two-person chair."

Knowlton is standing on the deck of the Snow Bowl's A-frame lodge, looking out at the mountain. A redevelopment plan would close the t-bars, relocate the two-person chair and build a new lift.

"A triple-chair lift to the top of the mountain," Knowlton says. "And this lodge, which will stay, gets supplemented and augmented to our left by a new lodge - about 8,000 square feet - that will house 200 people, which is twice the size of this one."

Boosting snowmaking capacity, meantime, would allow the facility to cover 80 percent of the mountain, instead of just 40 percent. Knowlton thinks these improvements would help attract more skiers and snowboarders in the winter, at a time when attendence has hovered around 30,000 visits the past couple years.

"Participation is actually trending up. But it's been volatile," he says. "We've had years as low as 22,000-23,000 visitors in the ski season. Our focus here is to stabilize those visits."

The redevelopment designed, in part, to do that would cost $6.5 million. Since 2008, Ragged Mountain has raised a little over two-thirds of the total from private donors. On Election Day, Camden voters are being asked to approve the remaining $2 million.

"It's a wonderful investment for the community," says Camden Town Manager Pat Finnigan. "There is a huge economic benefit for this community. We just had an economic impact statement done to show just how much the Snow Bowl does in terms of generating jobs, for, not the town so much, as the people who work and have businesses in the town."

The study - by an economic development firm based in New York state - found that the Snow Bowl supports 62 jobs in the greater Camden area and generates nearly $4 million in direct and indirect revenue annually.

In 2008, the town held an advisory vote, asking residents if they would be willing to approve municipal funding for improvements at the Snow Bowl, if the money was matched by twice as much private investment. Voters overwhelmingly said yes, by a 2 to 1 margin.

Next Tuesday, backers of the Snow Bowl redevelopment will find out if that sentiment still holds true.


Become a Fan of the NEW MPBNNews Facebook page. Get news, updates and unique content to share and discuss:

Recommended by our audience on Facebook:
Copyright © 2014 Maine Public Broadcasting Network. All rights reserved.