MILLINOCKET — The Town Council wants $15,000 of a $75,000 regional economic development payment, in the event of a mill shutdown, to finish paying for the area’s first multiuse recreational bridge on Route 11 just west of town.
Issued annually by an agreement with Brookfield Renewable Resources due to the town paper mill shutdown, the $75,000 is pledged for regional economic development. About $60,000 went to the bridge construction last year with the agreement of a regional economic development board.
Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said the $15,000 would pay the remaining costs of bridge construction, which has been continuing since late July. Council members will be attending a meeting of the Katahdin Area Recovery and Expansion, or KARE, committee to pitch the idea at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The meeting will be held at Town Hall. Residents are invited to attend. KARE approved the earlier bridge construction appropriation.
The bridge will be used by hikers, snowmobilers, bicyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts, and it is crucial to efforts to build an ATV trail network in the Katahdin region, proponents have said.
Officials, business owners and recreation enthusiasts from East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket have long believed that all-terrain vehicle use in the Katahdin region would inject millions of dollars into the regional economy during spring, summer and fall, much the way snowmobiling does during winter.
Landowners have resisted allowing ATV trails through the region, saying the trails would damage sensitive lands needed for the state’s forest products industries while increasing insurance liability, vandalism and illegal dumping.
Town Councilor John Raymond, former Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce President Brian Wiley and resident Paul Sannicandro have been working for three years as volunteers to create a 35-mile multiuse trail for ATV riders, bicyclists, bird-watchers, campers, hikers, snowmobilers and others.
They and a regional trails committee have elicited a nonbinding written agreement from Katahdin Forest Management — one of the region’s largest landowners — allowing the first 13-mile leg of a proposed 23½-mile leg of what would be the region’s first ATV and multiuse trail to become operational by 2011, if all conditions are met.
The bridge is a key element to that trail. Bridge construction, Conlogue told councilors, has been delayed somewhat by problems with the cable needed to build the bridge span, but is progressing. As of Monday, workers had been putting the first pieces of wood planking into the bridge.
The council also will discuss with KARE the idea of using the Eastern Maine Development Corp., an economic development organization, on an as-needed basis with any business in East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket, that might require its services.