MILLINOCKET, Maine — The Katahdin region’s fledgling economic development agency will meet Wednesday to decide whether to appropriate $60,000 for creation of a multiuse recreational bridge that will be key to efforts to create regional ATV trails, officials said Friday. The money would come from $75,000 in funds paid to Millinocket by Brookfield Renewable Power Inc.
The Town Council agreed unanimously though informally during its meeting Thursday to support using the funds to build the bridge across the Penobscot River. Councilors agreed the bridge would help link the region to the rest of the state’s burgeoning ATV networks and to the millions of dollars in tourism revenue they represent.
“I have been very happy being part of this economic development group,” council chairman Wallace Paul said Thursday. “I think we will have a solid outfit.”
The region’s Joint Board of Elected Officials will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Grassroots Catering in East Millinocket to discuss formally empowering the development board, which will be known as the Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion, or KARE, committee, East Millinocket Administrative Assistant Shirley Tapley said.
KARE’s mission statement, Tapley said Friday, is to “mutually work in a cooperative manner to make a meaningful, positive economic contribution to the Katahdin region by promoting new businesses and supporting existing businesses.”
KARE has 17 members and represents the governments of East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket as well as the region’s business community. Dan Byron of East Millinocket, David Violette of Medway and Steve Cullen of Millinocket are KARE’s at-large members, Tapley said.
The three town governments have generally agreed with using the money for the bridge. The remaining $15,000 has no designated use at the moment, Tapley said.
KARE will have a Web site, she said. Ray Fraser, a Web developer and business owner in East Millinocket, has volunteered to be the site’s webmaster.
Mark Scally, KARE’s chairman and the chairman of East Millinocket’s Board of Selectmen, did not return a telephone call seeking comment Friday.
John Richardson, head of the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, urged the creation of a regional economic development board when he met Dec. 4 with area officials. Acrimony had arisen among Katahdin officials in October over $75,000 that Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. paid Millinocket as compensation for the Brookfield-owned mill’s Sept. 2 shutdown.
The annual payment was to go to the economic development body serving the Katahdin region. Millinocket, the other towns claimed, got the designation and funds without their knowledge. Richardson said regional economic efforts are most likely to get economic aid.
Permits have been issued for the recreational bridge, which will likely be built this summer. It will be a key part of the 35-mile multiuse trail that Town Councilor John Raymond and former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce chairman Brian Wiley have worked on for more than three years.
The trail would follow a power line passage to Route 11, then to the proposed bridge. Avoiding nearby ski trails, the ATV course would continue south to the 5 Lakes Lodge area to Schoodic Lake and the Milo-Brownville area, effectively connecting Millinocket to a burgeoning multiuse and ATV trail network in southern Maine.
The Katahdin region lacks an ATV trail network.
ConnectME and working group members continue to plow through the long list of requirements to satisfy landowners before the trail agreements will be signed, Wiley has said. Besides the LURC permit, they have secured Millinocket and East Millinocket police agreements to help maintain trail safety in the Katahdin region.