MADAWASKA, Maine — Three St. John Valley communities will share a $250,000 grant aimed at promoting expanded tourism and economic development opportunities.
The Northern Border Regional Commission grant will fund improvements to the boat landings, camping areas and historical sites in Madawaska, St. Agatha and Frenchville, according to Suzie Paradis, Madawaska director of community and economic development and author of the grant.
The projects were developed with an eye toward the upcoming 2014 World Acadian Congress and the associated need to house some of the 50,000 visitors expected in the area over the two weeks of the event.
“The new RV and camping sites can help with hosting [the World Acadian Congress] as well as for the annual Acadian Festival and summer fests,” Paradis said. “We want to do all that we can to improve our area in time for 2014.
In Madawaska, the grant funds will be used to create eight RV sites at the town’s boat landing along the St. John River.
“These sites will have full water and bathroom hook-ups,” Paradis said. “We will also expand the boat landing and have camping along the river.”
St. Agatha also will use funds to expand its boat landing on Long Lake while Frenchville will use the money for improvements and increased parking at its historical site on U.S. Route 1, Paradis said.
“This is an important investment that will help create jobs and position the region for future growth,” U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud said in a prepared statement. “Our state has a proud Franco-American history, and this initiative will help the region capitalize on the cultural and economic opportunities that come along with hosting the 2014 World Acadian Congress.”
The St. John Valley is co-hosting the World Acadian Congress with northwestern New Brunswick and the Temiscouata region of Quebec.
“We are deeply appreciative of the commission’s efforts to bring this critical support to this iconic region, which will support job creation, infrastructure improvements, and strengthen Maine’s rural economy,” said U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in a joint release.
The grant funds are matched with state and local funds for a total project cost of $692,512, and construction will begin next spring, Paradis said.
The Northern Border Commission provides competitive grants for economic development in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.