Rumford residents offer suggestions for proposed community forest

Rumford Economic Development Director George O’Keefe said the desire for very well-preserved old growth stands of trees was unique.


Sun Journal

RUMFORD — Julie Renaud Evans, program director of the Northern Forest Center, asked more than 20 community participants, including some Planning Board members, Wednesday for wording for a vision and mission statement on a proposed 446-acre community forest in Rumford.

In May, Inland Woods + Trails, a nonprofit organization based in Bethel, announced plans to establish a community forest in partnership with the The Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center.

The project incorporates land between Black Mountain of Maine ski area and downtown Rumford, off Isthmus Road, increasing outdoor recreational opportunities while maintaining trails used by snowmobiles and ATVs.

Inland Woods + Trails would be the owner and manager of the forest.

The organization maintains 85 miles of trails in five towns throughout Oxford County, including for hiking, mountain biking, fat biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling.

Evans spoke of the benefits of planning and developing the community forest, saying, “You’ll see social benefits in terms of this planning process, (and benefits in) education and recreation … and then perhaps economic benefits as well.”

She said in creating a vision statement, they should think about how they want to use the land and keep in mind “a sort of a futuristic vision,” possibly of what they would want people in a hundred years to be thankful for about their community forest.

George O’Keefe, Rumford economic development director, said the most important thing in the wording are having the area’s “authentic voice,” and sounding like “something that someone else from Rumford would say.”

Another person said having some “old (tree) growth established is important” since the town has little old growth.

“Having that in itself could attract people. If you want recreation in that place, people will go to a place where old growth is to see it and have recreation,” he said.

O’Keefe said it was “significant” that several people also stated their “desire for very well-preserved old growth stands of trees. Really the whole spectrum of this entire group would like to see a forest that becomes mature and stable and stays that way forever. That’s a unique thing.”

The next Rumford Community Forest planning meeting is at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Town Hall auditorium and is open to the public.

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