August 14, 2018
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Blue Hill Heritage Trust awarded AARP Community Challenge Grant

Community Author: Chrissy Allen
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BLUE HILL –Blue Hill Heritage Trust (BHHT) has received a 2018 AARP Community Challenge grant as a community partner in the Age-Friendly Coastal Communities regional initiative coordinated by Healthy Peninsula, a community health organization in Blue Hill, with additional assistance from the Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.  The grant award covers one third of the necessary funds to construct an age-friendly hiking trail in Blue Hill, to include an accessible walking path with benches strategically placed for the comfort and safety of less mobile walkers.  The initial $10k award will help BHHT begin the project, and cover permitting and design costs. BHHT is looking for another $20k to match the “Challenge” portion of this community grant.

Because of its recognition of the demographic shifts in our local community, as well as the importance of making outdoor spaces accessible to all community members, BHHT endorses the mission of Age-Friendly Coastal Communities to enhance the lives of all people who live in the nine-town region that includes the Blue Hill Peninsula, Deer Isle and Stonington, with a special focus on older adults, by:

– Creating partnerships between and among organizations to enhance existing services;

– Advising the town select boards, as well as the community at large, about policy and infrastructure changes that will make our towns more livable;

– Encouraging volunteers and organizations to create programs and services that are needed to inspire residents to age safely and independently in our communities and to be as active in the social, economic, and civic life of the community as they want to be.

The grant funded project will improve pedestrian connectivity in the traditional downtown and adjacent areas of Blue Hill, enhancing access for residents and visitors to experience a piece of quiet solitude within town central. It is one part of the Blue Hill Trail Connectivity Project, a collaborative effort initiated by town residents and businesses to create safe, interconnected, pedestrian-friendly trails, paths and sidewalks from South Street down into the heart of Blue Hill; to encourage a sense of community, healthier lifestyle choices; and to curb the need for additional parking in downtown Blue Hill. BHHT’s new trail will be possible thanks to the generosity and cooperation of private land owners and George Stevens Academy, who are allowing the trail to cross their land. The larger project will eventually provide 1.3 miles of multi use pedestrian access to all of Blue Hill’s central services including the hospital, the town library, retail businesses and Blue Hill’s four schools

The AARP Challenge Grant will fund the kick-starter connector trail for the larger trail/sidewalk system. The trail will consist of a hard pack gravel mixture and serve all community members, from the youngest in strollers to the oldest with canes or walkers and will be wide enough and stable enough for those who need a smoother, wider trail.  In addition, there will be benches placed for those who need a place to rest and rejuvenate. The grant itself is a quick action project, designed to mobilize groups or organizations to make age friendly improvements in their community. As such, BHHT will need to have the project completed by late fall and is currently seeking out donations to match the AARP grant to aid them in completing the project.

The AARP Community Challenge Grant program was a highly competitive process, with nearly 1,600 applicants and 129 funded projects.  It is part of AARP’s nationwide Livable Communities initiative that helps communities become great places to live for residents of all ages. AARP staff and volunteers are working with roughly 300 communities across the country – and over 50 projects in Maine, alone — engaging and mobilizing community residents, delivering technical assistance and expertise to local leaders and organizations, and supporting the work of the 275 communities and two states that have enrolled in the AARP Network of Age Friendly States and Communities.

For more information on Blue Hill Heritage Trust and the planned trail, or for information on making a contribution towards the project, please contact Chrissy Beardsley Allen, Development & Outreach Director, Blue Hill Heritage Trust, at (207) 374-5118 or chrissy@bluehillheritagetrust.org.  For more information or to participate in the Age-Friendly Coastal Communities project, contact Anne Schroth, Healthy Peninsula Program Coordinator, at (207) 374-3257, or aschroth@healthypeninsula.org.