Trails through the 446-acre property are used primarily by snowmobiles, ATVs and occasionally for hiking and biking.
RUMFORD — Gabe Perkins, executive director for the nonprofit Inland Woods & Trails in Bethel, has announced a proposed Rumford Community Forest on 446 acres off Isthmus Road.
“It’s really a partnership with the town, with the nonprofit and the public to be open about what could, should or may be a use for these lands,” he recently told the Planning Board. “And we’d ask the public what those things should be.”
Perkins said Inland Woods & Trails would own the land on behalf of the town. “We’re flexible in our abilities to react and respond, but also we’ll put in 12, 16, 18 months of planning time to create this community forest. This is a particularly strong property for us.”
He said Inland Woods & Trails likes to work to connect towns to anchor destinations.
Perkins said Rumford Economic Development Director George O’Keefe and Kara Wilbur, a planner and community-based developer, had the idea for a community forest. The 446 acres went before the Planning Board years ago for a project that was never developed.
The property has 1.5 miles of the ITS-82 snowmobile trail and old skid roads. Trails are used primarily by snowmobiles, ATVs and occasionally by hikers and bicyclists. These trails would remain. The snowmobile trail and connector trails would be kept open to motorized use.
“We would like to start this process,” Perkins said. “We’ve submitted two grants over the last two weeks.” One is to The Land for Maine’s Future and the other is the U.S. Forest Service that would pay for the acquisition of the land.
He said the landowner, Red Hill corporation, has agreed to sell it for development as a community forest.
Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit, is leading the land purchase, including managing the real estate transaction and fundraising. Northern Forest Center is leading the community planning process.
O’Keefe said it’s notable that not just Inland Woods & Trails, but Trust For Public Land and the Northern Forest Center are both very impressed that the Planning Board would be interested, willing, able or available to help guide the planning process. “Typically, that’s not how it works,” he said.
“I believe that it helps us because it ensures public participation and transparency,” he said.
Town Manager Stacy Carter said, “This is nothing but a favorable exercise that we’ll be able to offer citizens and people from away something to do. The ability to come see western Maine and enjoy it.”
Perkins said the plan would be to meet with the Planning Board every four to six weeks.
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.
• Having picnic tables and benches in select locations.
Carter asked about the policy allowing hunting.
“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,” Perkins said.
They have a fulltime trail steward and seasonal trail staff to fix and maintain the trails, he said, and a hundred volunteers.
Inland Woods & Trails manages 10 extensive multiuse trail systems across western Maine. It owns the 1,510-acre Bethel Community Forest.
Perkins said they’ve been working in Rumford for five years discussing where and how to put in recreational trails, mostly for biking and walking. They’ve built the Pennacook Area Community Trails and added nearly 6 miles of trails. One trail is called Mystery Mountain in Rumford Point.