May 20, 2018
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Official pitches snowmobile bond package in Dover-Foxcroft

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — If Piscataquis County wants to enhance its market share of snowmobiling revenue, the creation of a trail land trust funded through a countywide bond package would be one method to do so, according to a Greenville official.

Greenville Town Manager John Simko pitched a proposal to the Piscataquis County commissioners Tuesday to develop a “rainy day fund” that would give the county a competitive edge with other snowmobile destinations in the state. The proposal also was extended to the Piscataquis Tourism Development Authority and the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council.

“Rather than continually gripe about this again and again, I think we need to come together and find a solution and make it a sustainable one,” Simko said of the snowmobiling proposal.

The needs are clear, according to Simko. He said the Interconnecting Trails in the county need to be improved and become permanent; funding for trail maintenance must be stabilized; trail conditions must be consistent throughout the county each season; and a coordinated marketing effort should be devised and funded to attract snowmobilers to the region.

To accomplish these needs, Simko suggested the creation of a land trust that would identify and hold land corridors, easements and rights of way. He said the county could develop an economic development bond package that would help fund these land acquisitions and easements, help with trail development and trail grooming when certain conditions during the seasons created a hardship, and help with capital equipment purchases.

Simko recommended that a committee of snowmobile trail grooming groups be formed and a discussion held on how to achieve consistency in trail conditions. He said the authority may be the best entity to devise a marketing strategy.

The commissioners were supportive of Simko’s proposal.

“It’s pretty dry [economy-wise] during the winter here, so we have to do something,” Commissioner Eric Ward said. “I don’t know how a bond would go over. I think you might find some resistance to that, but I think we should try to do something.”

Because of the revenue snowmobiling brings to the Moosehead Lake region, Simko said Greenville residents voted in June to use $28,700 from property taxes for snowmobile trail grooming to bridge the gap between donations, the snowmobile registration reimbursement and Department of Conservation grants.

Greenville is not the only town that benefits from the interconnecting snowmobile trails, most of which exist outside of the town, Simko noted.

Commissioner Fred Trask, a snowmobiler, said he was well aware of the business snowmobiling brings to the region. “It’s an economic value, it’s fantastic,” he said Tuesday.

Ward agreed. If the trails were permanent, four-wheelers could use them during the summer, and that would double the recreational benefit to the region’s economy, he said.

Simko said he would report back to the commissioners later this year as the effort moves forward.

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