By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN — Enjoy a beautiful twilight paddle on the Androscoggin River and then partake of an evening of food and networking at Service Credit Union Heritage Park Thursday.
It’s all part of Paddlemania — the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce’s effort to highlight the recreational opportunities provided by one of the Northeast’s great rivers. The event also showcases the heritage park with its replica logging camp and new pavilion right on the river.
“Our Androscoggin River and the Heritage Park are two wonderful assets of our area, and we look forward to celebrating both of them,” said Chamber Executive Director Paula Kinney.
Paddlemania provides a short but scenic paddle from the Nansen Wayside Area Park to the Heritage Park. The trip brings paddlers right into the heart of the city. Paddlers are treated to free food and beverages as part of the chamber’s Business After Hours. Landlubbers are welcome to the Business After Hours festival for a $10 fee. As part of the evening, Amoskeag Beverages will be offering free tastings of their summer ales.
Paddlers will gather at Nansen Wayside Park in Milan at 5 p.m. with the approximately three-mile paddle taking off at 5:30 p.m. Paddlers will receive a free wristband, entitling them to free admission to Paddlemania. There will be no shuttle this year, so paddlers have to make arrangements to shuttle their cars.
Chamber member businesses will receive two free wristbands for the park. Others arriving by land will be charged $10 per person.
Kinney stressed that Paddlemania and the Business After Hours will go on rain or shine. In the case of rain, the Business After Hours segment will be held in the pavilion next to the Cookhouse in the park.
Paddlemania is designed to coordinate with the Androscoggin River Watershed Council’s Source to the Sea trek.
The river runs through the valley and provides some of the best paddling to be found anywhere. There are long stretches of flatwater as well as some of the best whitewater in New England.
There is always a dependable water flow in the river because it is regulated for hydro production, making it attractive for paddlers in mid-summer when water levels are low in other rivers and streams.
The city assumed ownership of the heritage park in 2015 with an agreement that the chamber would manage the day-to-day operations there. In the past two years, major repair and maintenance work has been done at the park with volunteers participating in an annual day of caring. This year, a new post-and-beam performance stage was built, and next year the city has plans to build a riverwalk from the park.
PaddleMania is presented by the chamber and Amoskeag Beverages. The title sponsor is Brookfield, and the corporate sponsor is Capone Iron.