Economic Impact of the Proposed Run of River Whitewater Park in Skowhegan Maine

How to cite this study

O’Hara, F., Young, K. and Cannon, K. 2016. Economic Impact of the Proposed Run of River Whitewater Park in Skowhegan, Maine. Skowhegan, ME: The Town of Skowhegan.


The study estimates the impact of the proposed Run of River Whitewater Park in Skowhegan, Maine. The park would include infrastructure to support water sports and additional trails to encourage hiking, walking, and cross-country skiing. Run of River was estimated to generate a direct economic impact of nearly $6 million in spending in its first year and up to $19 million in its 10th year.


This study is relevant to leaders interested in estimating the economic return from developing whitewater recreational areas, supporting a variety of recreational activities, and using marketing to increase participation. The authors emphasize the importance of marketing communications and publicizing events, such as engaging in outreach to local high schools and college students and creating clubs. The study outlines a possible annual integrated marketing communications plan. Though it focuses on Skowhegan, the plan is largely applicable to many whitewater areas or outdoor recreation areas as a useful tool to increase participation and engagement. 

The plan includes information on marketing objectives, target audiences, marketing strategy ideas, media advertising strategies, recommended annual marketing budget, and potential marketing funding sources. Those working in marketing communications may find value in the suggestions on how promotions and integrated marketing strategies can increase economic impact. It should be noted that the economic estimates are largely based on previous studies regarding whitewater parks.


This study is located in Skowhegan, Maine, in the Kennebec River Gorge. 

Trail Type

Run of River is a proposed whitewater park in the town of Skowhegan, Maine, just below the dam in the Kennebec River Gorge. In addition to developing infrastructure to support water-related recreational activities, plans call for developing  trails for walking, biking, and cross-country skiing, ultimately creating the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area. 


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the potential economic impact of the creation of the Run of River Whitewater Park while also providing a concrete market communications plan to actively engage the public in events and publicize the recreational area.


  • The direct economic impact of Run of River is estimated to generate about $6 million in spending, 50 jobs, and $1.5 million in income in the first year and up to $19 million and 171 jobs by year 10. 
  • $155,000 are estimated to be generated from new tax revenue from increased property values in the first year and more than $200,000 in added state income and sales tax revenue. 
  • By year 10, property tax revenues could increase by $270,000-$480,000, and state tax revenues could grow $364,000-$656,000 per year. 
  • In the interviews conducted with municipal and county officials responsible for the operations of the parks, the authors found that successful whitewater parks tended to be located downtown and support multiple outdoor recreation activities such as trails, fishing, swimming, and public parks. Annual operating expenditures ranged from $5,000 – $65,000 depending on the types of structures and soil type. 
  • According to the interviews, events like festivals or paddling competitions are the main contributors to the economic impact of whitewater parks, attracting users and spectators. 
  • In the survey conducted on Facebook, one-third of the respondents were women and two-thirds were men, 87% participate in hiking and camping, most paddlers go in groups, and two-thirds are willing to drive more than two hours to paddle. 


The methodology comprised interviews with personnel from other whitewater parks, a literature review, a survey of people who would be interested in the park, and an economic impact analysis. The interviews with municipal and county officials who operated 19 successful whitewater parks covered quality of place assets, cost of construction, water flows and seasonality, operation and maintenance, usage data, admission fees, events, and spectator participation. For the literature review, the authors summarized a variety of studies regarding the economic impact of paddlers and whitewater parks. 

To better understand the preferences of potential users, the authors conducted an online survey of the closed Facebook group MAINE FLOWS, receiving 193 responses. Respondents gave information on demographics and activity levels and responded to questions regarding interest in the proposed Run of River Park. Interest in the park was high, which is likely expected since the sample is a Facebook paddling group. Respondents also offered ideas for the design of the water features, ideas for the infrastructure surrounding the water, ideas for potential customers, ideas for safety, and general comments.

For the economic analysis, the authors input data on industry sales, employment, and income for each sector of the Somerset County and Maine economies into IMPLAN. They analyzed the economic effect within Somerset County and statewide. The authors obtained estimates of whitewater paddling participation by age from the Outdoor Foundation, and based spending per day on findings from the Maine Tourism Office.

Added to library on November 13, 2023