Sun Journal


RUMFORD — Nearly 20 people attended the second Rumford Community Forest public planning meeting, held in the Rumford Falls Auditorium on June 21.
The guest speaker was Michael Richard, Oxford County District Forester with the Maine Forest Service, who talked about what goes into making a forest management plan.
Community forest planning meetings are held at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month for 8 to 10 months.
Inland Woods + Trails, a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Bethel, announced plans in May to bring a 446-acre community forest to the Town of Rumford in partnership with Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center.
The proposed project incorporates land between Black Mountain of Maine ski area and downtown Rumford off Isthmus Road, increasing outdoor recreational opportunities while maintaining existing trails used by snowmobiles and ATVs.
Inland Woods + Trails will be the owner and manager of the Rumford Community Forest. The organization currently maintains 85 miles of trails in five towns throughout Oxford County, including trails for hiking and mountain biking in the summer; fat biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing in the winter; as well as several snowmobile trails in the Bethel Community Forest.
Trust for Public Land will facilitate the acquisition of the property and public fundraising, and the Northern Forest Center will assist with the community planning process.

At a Rumford Planning Board meeting in April, Gabe Perkins, executive director for the non-profit Inland Woods & Trails in Bethel, said, “The idea is to create this community forest. It’s really a partnership with the town, with the non-profit and the public, to be open about what could, should or may be a use for these lands. And we’d ask the public what those things should be.”

He said Rumford Economic Development Director George O’Keefe and Kara Wilbur of 60 Lowell St., LLC had this idea for a community forest, and working with them, have landed with the 446-acre parcel on the map, a parcel that went before the Planning Board years ago for a proposed project that never came to fruition.

The property has 1.5 miles of ITS-82, a section of snowmobile club trail, and old skid roads. Trails are currently used primarily by snowmobiles in winter and ATVs in summer, but also occasionally for other uses like hiking and biking.

These existing trails and uses will remain when the community forest is established. Specifically, the ITS-82 and club connector trails would be kept open to motorized use.

Perkins said, “We’ve submitted two grants — one to The Land for Maine’s Future grant program for the State of Maine, and another to the U.S. Forest Service for their community forest and open space grant program, that will pay for the acquisition of the land.”

He said the current landowner of the property, Red Hill LLC, is very supportive and has agreed to sell it to become a community forest.

Trust for Public Land is leading the land purchase, including managing the real estate transaction and fundraising. Northern Forest Center is leading the community planning process.

“This property/project is perfect because of all the school trails and this parcel is connected to the Black Mountain Ski Resort, so it’s town to an anchor,” said Perkins.

He also noted, “We allow hunting, and we would allow hunting regardless because it reflects the community, and we know that hunting and fishing puts meat in people’s freezers. For the grants we’re applying for, public dollars, we have to (allow hunting and fishing).”

Perkins noted that in Bethel, they close their trails for rifle season.

To take care of the trails, he said they have a fulltime trail steward, and seasonal trail staff to fix and maintain the trails. There’s also “a cadre of a hundred volunteers who will come to us.”

Trust for Public Land and Northern Forest Center were original co-founders of the community forest model and have partnered for over 20 years to complete more than 20 community forest projects across New England.

The Rumford Community Forest will support multiple recreation types including hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, and fishing; and motorized uses including snowmobiles and ATVs on designated trails.
Ideas for trail and access improvements include restoring trails and possible relocation as needed, replacing the bridge over Scotty Brook to reestablish the trail and access point, creating new hiking and snowshoe trails, and possibly mountain biking trails, creating two new trailheads and public parking areas, and having picnic tables and benches in select locations.

The project already has broad community support from 13 local and regional organizations, providing broad representation across multiple sectors including education, recreation, businesses, non-profits, landowners, and town officials. For more information, please visit

The proposed Rumford Community Forest public planning schedule is as follows:
* Weds., July 12 — Evening hike hosted by Inland Woods & Trails, 5 p.m. start.
* Weds., July 19 — 6 p.m. meeting — The land — what do we know? What do we want to know? What do we want?
* Sat., August 12 — Morning hike, hosted by Inland Woods & Trails, 9:30 a.m. start.
* Weds., August 16 — 6 p.m. meeting — Developing a plan, starting with a vision and mission.
* Weds., Sept. 20 — Recreational possibilities.
* Sat., Oct. 14 — Hold for Saturday site walk or field trip.
* Weds. Oct. 18 — 6 p.m. meeting. Ecological assessment results.
* Weds., Nov. 15 — 6 p.m. meeting. Timber inventory results.
* December 2023 — no meeting
* Weds., Jan. 17 — 6 p.m. meeting. Developing a plan — activities and uses of the property.
* Weds., Feb. 21 — 6 p.m. meeting. Developing a plan — setting priorities.
* Weds., March 20 — 6 p.m. meeting. Integrating assessments and inventories with community priorities.

FMI: contact Inland Woods & Trails Executive Director Gabe Perkins at

About Inland Woods + Trails
Based in Bethel, Maine and founded in 2011, Inland Woods + Trails has conserved nearly 1,000 acres, and is dedicated to creating permanent protection for recreational trail corridors for economic growth and prosperity by connecting communities through the development, maintenance, and promotion of a multi-use recreational trail network.

About Northern Forest Center
Since 1997, the Northern Forest Center has forged deep partnerships and secured resources to support jobs, conserve forestland and strengthen communities in the region. NFC invests in people and communities to secure regional prosperity and a resilient landscape by creating the New Forest Future, a long-term endeavor.

About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected 4 million acres of public land; created 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places; raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands; and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit

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