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$317,000 awarded to help improve recreation opportunities in Northern New England

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CONCORD, NH – Grants from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative will help 11 communities and organizations serve residents and visitors with improved outdoor recreation opportunities.

“This year’s funded projects include all kinds of trail development, from accessible community trails to mountain biking and an arts trail, as well beginner-level ski jump hills, mountain biking skills parks, visitor information and a safe crossings program,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. “The grant program invests in projects that support economic development and outdoor recreation opportunities for residents in our region’s rural communities.”

The program is an initiative of the Northern Forest Center in Maine and New Hampshire, offered in partnership with Northeastern Vermont Development Association and NEK (Northeast Kingdom) Collaborative in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The initiative is supported by the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC).

“For the second year in a row, this unique partnership has identified crucial projects in our region that support what those of us who live here have known for a long time, that this is the place to recreate outdoors and to build a business that enables outstanding experiences for both returning visitors and new friends,” said Rich Grogan, executive director of the Northern Border Regional Commission.

The $317,526 granted this year leverages matching funds and in-kind project support for a total $515,491 investment in community-based outdoor recreation amenities. Coupled with 10 grants awarded in 2020, the initiative’s support for outdoor recreation infrastructure in the region totals $619,317 in grant funds toward a total $1.1 million investment in recreation projects.

The outdoor recreation grant program is part of the Northern Forest Center’s focus on destination development for the region, which helps communities create the amenities and experiences that can attract new visitors, new residents, and new businesses while sustaining and enriching quality of life for people who already live in the destination area.

In partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism, the Center has run Community Destination Academies for the Greenville, Rangeley, and Bethel, Maine areas and recently launched the Northern Forest Rural Tourism Academy to help communities in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and northern New Hampshire leverage their outdoor recreation amenities to make regional tourism destination development efforts more strategic and effective. The Rural Destination Academy is funded by the Northern Border Regional Commission, USDA Rural Development, and the Center.

“The first round of grants last year coincided with the arrival of Covid-19,” said Short of the Northern Forest Center. “The projects we funded were planned before the pandemic, but they added resources and infrastructure that served residents looking to get outdoors for exercise, fun, and stress relief. This year applicants proposed more than $557,000 in projects, demonstrating that the trend toward active outdoor recreation is strong for residents and for visitors coming to the region.”

Data reported by the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association, from its annual outdoor participation report show a 28% increase in camping and a 16% increase in hiking nationwide in 2020.

Maine grant recipients include:

Carrabassett Region Chapter of New England Mountain Bicycle Association, Wyman Township and Carrabassett Valley: $30,000 to begin construction of a new ‘pod’ of user specific trails with its own trailhead facilities with 12 to 15 miles of mountain bicycle trails for all abilities.

“This award will allow us to get started on a significant expansion to our current network,” said Joshua Tauses, Carrabassett Valley trails manager, on behalf of the Carrabassett Region Chapter of New England Mountain Bicycle Association. “We have been working with the Town of Carrabassett Valley and Maine Bureau of Public Lands since 2015 on planning and are excited that construction can soon begin. Our goal of providing quality outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike is growing the economic stability of our region significantly.  Where there once was minimal year-round activity, we now have a world class network of trails for all abilities, providing sustainable healthy living for those who seek and experience it.”

High Peaks Alliance, Farmington: $50,000 to improve accessibility of trails and community connection in Farmington, ME and train a new generation of trail stewards.

“The Sandy River is an enormous asset to the town of Farmington,” said Brent West, executive director of the High Peaks Alliance. “By building an accessible trail connecting downtown Farmington to the waterfront, we will attract more people to town, keep people in town longer, and showcase why this region is a great place to raise a family, enroll in college, or spend a day. We have found that access to water, well maintained trails, and proximity to local amenities are popular for visitors and residents alike. These experiences are foundational to growing our economy and the Northern Forest Center’s grant will enable our community to build the first accessible trail in Franklin County.”

Last modified on Wednesday, 19 May 2021 06:00

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