Plan for Black Mountain ski area expected in two weeks

Posted July 12, 2013, at 8:16 a.m.

RUMFORD, Maine — Andy Shepard told a crowd of nearly 100 children, community leaders, and others Thursday morning that he hopes to a have a plan in place to sustain Black Mountain of Maine within two weeks.

Shepard, president of Maine Winter Sports Center, which has owned the mountain since 2003, said he looked at the recently questionable future of Black Mountain as an opportunity.

“It’s time to see Black Mountain operate on its own,” he said.

For 10 years, the Libra Foundation has supported and invested millions of dollars in the popular ski area, which is used by individuals, school ski teams and Olympic hopefuls.

Rumford has also provided financial support, but voters decided last month not to give $51,000 Black Mountain requested to carry it through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees.

On Thursday, Shepard spoke at the lodge as part of a fundraising event kick-off by Bangor Savings Bank.

The bank has pledged $25,000 toward the operation of the mountain that must be matched by contributions. The deadline for making donations is July 31.

Shepard said fundraising efforts have been very successful since people learned last month that Black Mountain may not reopen. He said about half of the initial goal of $150,000 has been donated so far.

On Thursday, he asked people to boost that goal to $200,000.

“That is realistic,” he said. “The more money we raise, the more sustainable the mountain will be.”

He said the mountain has an important economic impact on the region. But even more so, he said, many, many people have fond memories of skiing at Black Mountain, as evidenced by the volume of posts on Facebook.

The possibility that the ski area may close came following the best year the mountain has had. Dropping ski tickets to $15 enabled nearly everyone to go skiing, he added. He said attendance quadrupled during the season ending last March.

Bangor Saving Bank representatives Yellow Light Breen and Greg Gagne were present at the fundraising challenge.

Gagne said he was impressed with how well the community has supported the mountain.

“It is very focused,” he said.

Those who wish to make contributions to the mountain may drop off checks at any branch of Bangor Savings Bank, or they may go to the bank’s Facebook page.

“I think Black Mountain has a very bright future. That’s why it’s critical to do fundraising right now,” Shepard said.

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