Walking the AT has opened yet another unforseen door for me. For three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I’ve been ensconced on the couch expanding my reading choices, namely technical writing related to riverfront development.
This past Thursday I was invited to the Cabinet Room at the Capital Building to be present when Governor John E. Baldacci announced the recipients of $4.9 million in Riverfront Community Development Bond Program Grant Awards. I got to shake his hand twice, and the Governor even mentioned my name as a citizen member of the award panel. Pretty good for hiker trash.
This all started in December 2007 when I was appointed by Glenn Cummings, Speaker of the House, as a member of the 6 person Riverfront Community development Review panel as a a member “ with expertise in trail design and development”.
In November 2007, the general ballot established a $5,000,00 bond that was approved by the people of Maine to provide funds for communities to stimulate economic activity along their rivers whether it be restoring an abandoned mill or creating a river front park.”
These projects would require a hefty 2:1 match from either sponsoring municipalities, or qualified private investors. For example, those projects requesting $750,000, the maximum allowed for a project, would have to prove that they had $1.5 million pledged for the entire project.
“The lives of Maine people have always been intimately intertwined with the region’s waterways. With more than 30,000 miles of rivers in the state, and more than half of Maine’s population living in riverfront communities, the potential benefits of a river bond are enormous. For thousands of years Native Americans used Maine rivers for travel, food, and commerce. In the 1800’s, rivers like the Penobscot, Kennebec and Androscoggin yielded tremendous catches of river herring, sturgeon and salmon and later powered the saw mills, tanneries and textile mills that led Maine into the industrial era. In many cases, water quality declined and populations of our once legendary fisheries suffered. The Clean Water Act coupled with river restoration projects have also begun to bring back long-diminished populations of sea-run fish and have helped to make our river ecosystems healthier and more vibrant.’The rivers flowing through so many of Maine’s communities can provide both economic and community benefits,’ said Senator Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, lead sponsor of the bill”.
I initially attended a couple of half-day meetings in Augusta at the State House, where we setting the ground rules for rating the applications. In the end, there were 28 applications to deal with, with a maximum cut-off amount of $750,000 to be awarded to each individual project. With a maximum of $5 million to award, projects would be cut out.
That’s where the box comes in. I arrived at the homestead one afternoon in early November to discover a large package filled with Xeroxed copies of all 28 applications. The deadline to rate them all was Nov. 20th. I got busy, as some of the applications had as many as 14 attachments. Pretty technical stuff, but it all worked out.
I learned a great deal about many of the communities that I have yet to visit in Maine, places like downtown Milo, or Grand Isle in Aroostook County. I plan to take a couple of long motorcycle rides next season and visit these riverfront communities to see how they made out with these well deserved grants. What a country we live in that things like this are still possible.
For a full article on the communities that received the bond monies go here: