One of the rainiest Maine Junes on record had lasting affects for Bristol Parks and Recreation and its budget, as the department saw a decrease in attendance at both Pemaquid Beach Park and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park.
According to Bristol Parks and Recreation Director Shelley Gallagher, heavy rain can spell trouble for department, which oversees Pemaquid Beach and Park and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, as well as other properties.
According to data from the National Weather Service, 4.8 inches of rain fell in June, the highest amount for the month since 2019, which recorded 6.82 inches of rainfall.
According to Gallagher, Bristol Parks didn’t break even in its budget until mid to late August when typically that threshold is crossed in July. According to Bristol’s annual report and numbers provided by Gallagher, this was the first year since 2019 the actual beach admission revenue didn’t meet the budget.
Beach admissions totaled $143,704 for the year against a $145,000 budget. These numbers include solely revenue generated from admissions.
“The beach was hit hard,” Gallagher said. “I was worried I was going to lose staff.”
Pemaquid Beach closes during bad weather. One of their employees, Gallagher said, didn’t have a shift in June that didn’t either start late, end early, or get called off entirely.
“I was worried our staff was going to go get jobs that guaranteed hours,” Gallagher said. “We were very, very lucky our employees stuck by us.”
The parks department had to make some adjustments due to the weather, so that by mid-July they were able to make the most of the summer.
“We found that most mornings would start foggy and we were opening later,” Gallagher said. “So, we decided that when we opened the beach later we would also keep it open later.”
The rainy weather affected more than revenue, as it also postponed several projects slated to happen this summer for both the lighthouse and the beach, according to Gallagher.
Projects such as rebuilding the front entrance deck at the lighthouse museum, scheduled for early August, had to be postponed until Bristol Parks knew it had enough money.
“We had the material ordered and it was about to be shipped, but we had to cancel because we weren’t sure about the money,” Gallagher said.
Other projects postponed included replacing rotting wood around the learning center at the beach and around the art gallery at the lighthouse, and replacing the backside of the roof at the Ellingwood Information Center, the headquarters of Bristol Parks.
While the front deck at the lighthouse isn’t going to be done this year, some of other projects, according to Gallagher, such as the learning center, are being taken care of now.
The next big project, according to Gallagher, is the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park restroom renovation, which is set to take place next fall.
“We’ll have some additional revenue over expenses, but not much,” Gallagher said. “It’s not going to be like it was in previous years.”
According to Bristol annual reports 2021 and 2022, beach admissions exceeded budget by differences of $20,927 in 2021 and $6,291 in 2022. Gallagher said 2021 was a slight outlier because of the droves of people that wanted to be outside during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Weather affects us, but also just economic things,” said Mary Gauntt, a longtime Bristol Parks and Recreation employee. “Whether that’s COVID or, right now, it’s inflation.”
According to Gauntt, the lighthouse gets visitors rain or shine, staying open for four to five months, compared to the beach’s 10 weeks.
Hurricane Lee’s arrival on county shores on Sept. 13 also brought with it the lighthouse’s busiest day of the 2023 season, according to Gauntt.
“We had a line backed up from the gatehouse,” Gauntt said. “People love coming down to see the waves from a safe distance during storms.”
While lighthouse park admissions revenue won’t be available until after it closes, Gallagher and Gauntt said that numbers seem to be headed in the right direction with over a month left in the season and a price increase this year for adults from $3 to $4 instituted this year.
Year to date, Gallager said Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park admissions has collected over $201,000, with an expected admissions budget of $255,000.
“The lighthouse is a nice little jewel in Bristol,” Gauntt said. “Between the beach, Rock Schoolhouse, and all of these little places, they have historical significance, and are beautiful.”
While Pemaquid Beach had its last day of the season on Sept. 10, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, which includes the Fisherman’s Museum, art gallery, and the lighthouse tower, will remain open until Oct. 22.
Both Gauntt and Gallagher were optimistic about next season and grateful for the resilience of the staff in the current one.
“We’ll be OK,” Gallagher said.
For more information Bristol Parks and Recreation, go to bristolmaine.org/home/parks-recreation, call 563-1800, or visit the Ellingwood Information Center at 1180 Bristol Road from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday.