$317,000 Awarded to Help Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont Communities Improve Recreation Opportunities
Vermont Business Magazine Grants from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative will help 11 communities and organizations serve residents and visitors with improved outdoor recreation opportunities. Vermont will receive over $100,000 for six organizations.
“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 theplace 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.
"NVDA is pleased to once again partner with the Northern Forest Center to advance the Northeast Kingdom's outdoor recreational economy through funding local community-supported projects," said David Snedeker, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association.
In St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the town will create a trail network to complement its Riverfront Path and connection to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. “The in-town trail network will be a key marketing message that will allow us to attract walkers and bikers to our Designated Downtown shopping and dining hub,” said Town Manager Chad L. Whitehead. “This increase in local usage and tourist visitation will have huge benefits to our local retail and hospitality businesses.”
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.
The full list of grant recipients includes:
- Albany Community School, Albany, VT; $10,050 to build a pump track training and practice area to introduce youth to mountain biking skills.
“Without this grant we would not be moving this project forward at this time,” said Steve Owens, principal of Albany Community School. “We were hoping to build a pump track two years ago but did not have the resources. We’re moving ahead now at much better location, and the pump track will give kids the opportunity to safely practice skills associated with single-track mountain biking before taking to the trails. The Community School has an ongoing partnership with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center (COC). Many of our students learn to ride on our trails, and then “graduate” to programs at the COC. By creating safe family- and community-centered site where people can explore mountain biking, we provide a gateway to the larger recreational opportunities offered in the Kingdom. This project will also help with the revitalization of Albany Village, including the restoration of the Albany Store.”
- Kingdom Trail Association, East Burke, Vermont; $32,076 to create the Safe Road and Trail Crossings project to improve safety at road and trail crossing.
"Kingdom Trails is beyond thrilled to be a recipient of a Northern Forest Outdoor Recreation Grant!” said Abby Long, executive director of Kingdom Trail Association. “Our Safe Road and Trail Crossings project was identified as a priority in KT's recent community-led Capacity Study. This project will improve safety for drivers and trail users, residents and visitors where roads and trails intersect. The funds will be dedicated to the project’s infrastructure and paired with expanding Kingdom Trail's Ambassador Program to hold trail users accountable, monitor safe road and trail crossings, and promote engagement and education with the goals of creating a safer experience for those walking, biking, and driving. We aim to strengthen the economic impact across the region and relieve pressure and stress on private landowners and our host communities."
- Lyndon Outing Club, Lyndonville, Vermont; $26,000 to construct a pump track, mountain bike skills progression park— including berms, jumps, rollers, and wooden trail features — followed by construction of an on-hill trail system on town land.
"We hope the Lyndon Outing Club Bike Park project will begin the development of a new hub for mountain biking closer to downtown Lyndonville,” said Caleb Gale of the Lyndon Outing Club. “Bringing more trail users closer to the downtown area will provide the opportunity for economic growth in the areas of retail, lodging, and restaurants among others. The park will initially offer a skills progression area and trails tailored to new and beginning riders. Eventually we hope to develop more trails and plan to explore a connection to the rest of the Kingdom Trails network. The park will be open to the public and free to use for locals and visitors alike. This grant from the Northern Forest Center will fund the majority of the first phase of the bike park project, with the remainder made up of grants from Kingdom Trails and Blue Cross Blue Shield, along with Lyndon Outing Club fundraising."
- Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village, Brownington; $33,200 to create “The Alexander Twilight Educational Trail, Open to Interpretation” to bring together outdoor recreation, art, culture, and local history.
“This project will celebrate and explore the legacy of African American educator, legislator and academic Alexander Lucius Twilight through artistic interpretations of the historic landscapes —both human and natural — he called home.” said Molly Veysey, executive director of Old Stone House Museum. “The project will integrate Brownington and Orleans County school children into the creation processes of four selected artists, allowing for rich local learning opportunities. ‘Open to Interpretation’ will attract a dynamic and diverse audience not only to the Old Stone House Museum & Historic Village, but also to our region's many attractions."
- Town of Hardwick, Vermont; $10,000 to improve community trails for better access for downhill mountain biking, greater trail use during peak periods, and nearly 100% access to the Community Trails throughout the year, including a new access point to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
“The Town of Hardwick is honored to have received this award from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative,” said Town Manager Shaun Fielder. “With this grant support, Hardwick will further improve its recreational trail network and strengthen the 4-season recreational opportunities the town has to offer.”
- Town of St. Johnsbury, Vermont; $20,000 to improve trails in the Town Forest.
“Having an in-town trail network that the Town of St. Johnsbury can promote to complement our Riverfront Path and connection to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail will be a key marketing message that will allow us to attract walkers and bikers to our Designated Downtown shopping and dining hub,” said Town Manager Chad L. Whitehead. “This increase in local usage and tourist visitation will have huge benefits to our local retail and hospitality businesses. The location of the Town Forest in proximity to the Village also provides benefit for residents by putting outdoor recreation at their doorstep. We encourage people to move into our downtown, become part of our community and invest in housing, and this type of amenity makes that opportunity more attractive to those looking to relocate to the Northeast Kingdom.”
- Carrabassett Region Chapter of New England Mountain Bicycle Association, Wyman Township and Carrabassett Valley, Maine; $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, Maine; $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.”
- Nansen Ski Club, Inc., Milan, NH; $40,000 to restore an abandoned 40-meter ski jumping hill and create a new 20-meter ski jumping hill suitable to train beginner ski jumpers.
"We are so grateful to the Northern Forest Center for providing the Nansen Ski Club this exceptional funding opportunity to help us bring back the sport of ski jumping to the North Country,” said Scott Halvorson, treasurer of the Nansen Ski Club. “Ski jumping is a strong part of the Club’s legacy and creating our new “small” hills will attract youth and parents — locally and statewide — to experience this unique and wholesome activity. As these hills sit in the shadow of the Big Nansen ski jump, they will complement and provide a boost to the area economically as well as infusing significant community pride."
- Town of Gorham, NH; $40,000 to build and install visitor kiosks on high-use trails, build new parking for Androscoggin River sport access on Howland Avenue, and complete branding and signage to promote lasting economic development.
“Gorham, New Hampshire is a rural paradise of adventure,” said Denise M. Vallee, Town Manager of Gorham, NH, “but people driving through might have no idea that our trail networks exist, or that we have a Multi-Modal Recreation Path to take you to the variety of amenities in Gorham’s downtown village. We need wayfinding signs and educational resources that speak to the quality and connection of our natural assets and village amenities. This grant enables us to improve several vital, non-motorized recreation locations in Gorham and strengthen our long-term pride of place.”
“Outdoor recreation is vital to Gorham’s present and future economic development,” said Vallee. “Our long-term goals align to promote Gorham as a safely walkable and bike-friendly community: we are a trail community for all. This wayfinding work adds to the collective momentum of building sustainable trail accessibility and promoting stewardship of Gorham’s natural resources.”
- Town of Milan, NH; $26,000 to complete a hiking trail started by the Milan Village School 5th grade class and construct a wildlife viewing platform; construct a 2-mile loop trail on a newly acquired property; and install 4 information kiosks in the Milan Community Forest.
“The Town of Milan and its Community Forest is so excited about this grant,” said George Pozzuto, chair of the Milan Community Forest Committee. “The Committee has been hard at work acquiring land and now it’s time to implement projects to make that land accessible for our residents and visitors. This grant provides the support we need to make that a reality and we look forward to a continued excellent relationship with the Northern Forest Center. Without this grant we would likely have needed to wait a few more years before providing recreational opportunities on the Milan Community Forest.”
Source: CONCORD, NH: Grants from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative 5.17.2021