Proposed designs for a new Camden Snow Bowl lodge at Ragged Mountain have been scaled down and retooled by the architect, and committees backing its creation are hoping the public will like it.

Architect Stephen Blatt of Portland will present new drawings and models of a two-story, 8,500-square-foot lodge July 27 at a community comment meeting, beginning at 7 p.m. in the existing lodge at the mountain. On Aug. 2, the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Committee will deliver a status report to the Camden Select Board at a regularly scheduled municipal meeting.

“We’re not asking for options, we’re not asking for a vote,” said committee Co-Chairman Rick Knowlton. “We are asking for opinions, suggestions and support. Did we get this right? Are we at a place where this aesthetic and scale meet budget. We are past the point of looking for design criticism; yet, we are looking for acknowledgment from the majority that this looks great and we are ready to move forward.”

The redesign comes after months of reassessing the lodge design, the budget governing it, and listening to public opinion. The new lodge is part of the larger Mountain of Possibilities campaign, a $6.5 million project initiated in 2007 and which includes expanding trails, increasing snow making reliability, enhancing Hosmer Pond access and otherwise improving the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area for the sake of year-round activities. The improvements, proponents are hoping, will increase the number of visitors not just to the area, but to the Camden region, and generate more business.

While the Snow Bowl, with its ski trails, pond and sports field, is owned and operated by the town of Camden, the campaign is a public/nonprofit collaboration of taxpayers and the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation. The foundation’s Capital Campaign Committee has pledged to raise $4.5 million of the total project cost, and after that is secured, proponents are hoping that Camden voters will approve a $2 million bond to complete the funding package. The municipal Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Redevelopment Committee, consisting of foundation members, Camden citizens and town employees, is the framework for the public-nonprofit collaboration.

The new lodge represents $2.4 million of the total $6.5 million project. The remaining $4.1 million is to be directed for mountain improvements and utilities, including a new sewer system, electrical upgrades, new chairlift and trail terrain, as well as expanded cross-country skiing and biking trails. The revised Snow Bowl plan also includes removing the T-bars, and improving beginner and novice slopes. Approximately $600,000 of the project is to be spent on utility infrastructure, parking, storm water management and landscaping.

Season in review

Camden Snow Bowl, 2010/2011

71 days of operations. Opening Day: Dec 18, Closing Day: March 27

84 employees: 25 full time, 59 part time

335 fourth-grade Knox County children received three free ski lessons as part of their school day

1,086 children visited the Snow Bowl with other school groups

84 children received scholarships for lessons, tickets, racing programs and season passes

95 children participated in racing programs after school and on weekends

1,087 season passes were sold

1,369 total passes were used, including staff, their families, and volunteers

282 complimentary season passes were issued to 48 seniors >70 years, 46 Juniors <6 years, 28 Ski Patrol, 11 Mtn. Steward, 10 race coaches, 75 employees, 64 employee family members

739 free lift tickets were provided for children aged 5 and under

85 free lift tickets were given to folks 70-plus years old, in addition to 50 free senior passes

2,456 volunteer Ski Patrol hours were provided by 32 patrollers

425 teams, more than 1,000 competitors and 6,000 spectators for the U.S. National Toboggan Championships

Non-ski season

At the lodge (non-ski season) there were 67 events and meetings scheduled: 24 private events such as weddings, reunions, parties, etc., involving about 2,225 people; 22 events for clubs, schools and other nonprofit entities, involving about 2,000 people; and, 20 Parks and Recreation sponsored events and meetings, involving more than 3,000 people

On the sports field there are an estimated 180 regular users in the spring, 255 regular users in the summer, and at least 200 users in the fall.

Leagues that use the field include Little League, Ultimate Disc, Lacrosse, Soccer, Adult Coed Softball, the Camden Summer Recreation Day Camp, Adult Flag Football, and Five Town Football.

Other regular users at the recreation area include (estimated numbers): 2,000 hiker and dog walker user days; 1,700 mountain bike user days; 1,200 summer youth program participant days; 1,000 tennis player days; 600 boat ramp and swim area user days

In total there are an additional 26,500 user days during the spring, summer and fall at the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area.

Source: Camden Parks and Recreation

Original lodge designs were presented last summer at the Camden Opera House, where citizens questioned whether the new lodge was too extravagant. At that point, the proposed 13,000-square-foot lodge was to combine a public space, along with a sports rental shop, race center, a bathroom and kitchen, along with staff offices.

By December, however, the building committee, as well as the larger redevelopment committee, agreed the cost estimates of the lodge were over budget, and by March, set in motion a revised plan that included building a new lodge next to the existing lodge, and maintaining the old lodge, built in the 1960s, for ski patrol, first aid, locker rooms, and for ski club and mountain bike club use.

Plans for a new lodge were likewise scaled down.

“We realized last December that we cannot afford to build a new lodge large enough to accommodate all the programs that happen here at Ragged Mountain,” said Camden Parks and Recreation Department Director Jeff Kuller, in a news release. As a campus, this approach is operationally better, he said.

“We will be able to use the right type of space for each need,” he said. “With two buildings that provide different functions, we can open and close areas and be efficient with how we operate throughout the year. Sustainability and financial stability are an important part of this project and a campus plan helps.”

The proposed new lodge, with a footprint of 80 by 80 feet, is to incorporate on one level seating for more than 200, a kitchen/food area, ticket and ski school counters, and restrooms; the bottom floor is to house a rental and repair shop, office space and equipment storage.

The architecture, according to the committee, incorporates: “Scandinavian origins with design features that are inviting and interesting on the exterior. Internally, the design offers wonderful views up the mountain and south to Hosmer Pond and provides efficient, low volume space filled with natural light.“

The footprint of the existing lodge is approximately 45 by 55 feet.

Knowlton said the new design also includes solar power (the structure on the roof will allow venting, as well as light to filter down to the main indoor space, and will be lined with photovoltaic tiles), and radiant heated basement flooring, if the fundraising makes it possible.

The redevelopment committee pressed upon the architect the need for sticking to the budget last December, said Knowlton, as it watched last year’s original new lodge design climb in scope and cost.

“The committee realized the smart thing to do was to stick to the original budget,” he said. “In December, the committee looked at the entire project and reinforced the focus on programs. We were clear and consistent from Day 1 that the upkeep of the skiing, hiking and biking trails, snowmaking and lighting were highest priority.”

At that point, Knowlton said the committee asked Blatt if he could modify the lodge design to remain within a $2.4 million budget.

“He said he would have to start over,” said Knowlton. “We talked about process and decided to stick with the architect, who was already involved and committed to the project. With that commitment, we said, ‘show us some sketches, you heard all the feedback from the [public] sessions.'”

Blatt then returned to the committee with three designs, one minimalist, the second a modification on the first, a “campy, lodgy, gable option, that you’d find on a lake somewhere in Maine,” said Knowlton. “We were getting closer to the comfort zone, but it didn’t speak to anybody.”

The third option was one with Scandinavian roots, with a metal roof and wood exterior.

“We said, let’s work on this one,” said Knowlton.

Meanwhile, the committee had also received in June an alternative design from architect Justin Smith and a group referring to themselves as Friends of the Snow Bowl. The drawings and conceptual designs were produced at a public charrette in April that included five local architects and community members, according to an email sent to the redevelopment building committee.

“We do not expect your committee to use these designs per se but it is our hope that some of our ideas can be helpful and incorporated into your current plans,” the Friends wrote. “At the very least, we hope that some serious consideration will be given to these concepts. As a group we have been disappointed in the designs that have been presented to the public. The current plan your committee is now endorsing appears to be too expensive for the budget and certainly raises questions concerning the plan, massing and basic aesthetic appeal to the general public. It is unfortunate that after 2.5 years of hard work the project is still struggling with these fundamental issues.”

The email was signed by Rob Iserbyt, Justin Smith, John Hansen, David Dickey, Stephen Smith, Geoff James, Charlie Pearson, Hugh Stebbins, Gerald Weinand and Richard Remsen.

“The building committee talked about those options,” said Knowlton on July 13. He said that of the two designs the Friends shared, “one was too expensive. The second one, we did not like better than this one,” pointing to the Blatt design. “At this concept scale, we said, let’s work with our architect and work on this one.”

A few weeks later, the redevelopment committee met with approximately 18 representatives of the fundraising and building committees, as well as the Camden Parks and Recreation Committee.

“Those groups collectively said, ‘that works,'” said Joe Ryan, a member of the redevelopment committee.

According to Blatt, the lodge is the center of the Ragged Mountain campus, and is a “gathering place, inviting and comfortable yet durable.”

Knowlton and the redevelopment committee’s other co-chairman, Bob Gordon, issued a joint statement, saying: “In terms of project development, the committee and our consultants took some extra time to evaluate options before presenting this plan to the public. We wanted to make sure that the campus approach was both affordable and the preferred method of delivering our recreation programs to more people. We have confirmed our total redevelopment project budget and Jeff Kuller has updated the sustainability plan for the operation and maintenance of the area. We want to make sure that folks know that $4.1 million of the $6.5 million project budget goes to mountain improvements and utilities. The new lodge represents $2.4 million of the total budget. This information, along with the design graphics and visuals released today will be posted on the Camden Snow Bowl website, camdensnowbowl.com, for those that would like to review it, both before and after the upcoming community presentation. With community support for the plan, we’re ready to start working on the final phases of design. The construction schedule will be driven entirely by the fundraising schedule.”

To date, approximately $2 million has been raised toward the project.

“Honestly, we are making better progress than many other fundraising campaigns around the state, but we’d appreciate a little more help from the broader economic picture,” said Gordon. “Our goals have not changed; to improve local outdoor recreation opportunities and provide a stronger base for economic activity. The community support is still strongly behind this project and we are confident we will reach our goal for private donations. The use of the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area and the Snow Bowl continues to grow, so demand for local recreation is stronger than ever. We launch into the second half of the fundraising campaign with renewed energy and optimism and we ask everyone for their financial support of the project. We plan on using the next six months to set the stage for an exciting 2012 at Ragged Mountain.”

Knowlton said he encourages the broader Midcoast community, up and down the coast, to attend the July 27 meeting and offer comments and suggestions on the design.

“We are hoping to see enthusiasm,” said Ryan on July 13. “If we can confirm that community-wide, we can get steam behind fundraising.”