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February 28, 2024

A USDA grant to Waterville got a helpful push from Maine businesses

Courtesy / USDA Rural Development Rhiannon Hampson, state director of USDA Rural Development, at a grant ceremony with Waterville City Manager Bryan Kaenrath.

A federal grant designed to spark recreational activities in Waterville got some help from local businesses.

Gorham Bike and Ski, Bixby Chocolate Cafe, the Lockwood Hotel, Silver Street Tavern and Sunrise Bagel all sent letters of support for Waterville's grant proposal, which sought funds for recreational planning.

On Monday, Rhiannon Hampson, state director of U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, announced that the agency set aside $45,000 for the city's effort. The city will chip in $6,250.

Planning is in the early stages so the funding will play for a study of local recreational assets, including city parks, rec centers, trails and other resources.

“The people who live and work in a community understand what the local needs truly are,” said Hampson. “When we can provide a federal grant and allow the community itself to steer that investment, it is a win for all involved.

"At Rural Development we know that projects like this have a multiplier effect, and leveraging federal grant dollars benefits many sectors. This is a particularly collaborative project designed to ensure Waterville is a great place to live and a great place to visit.”

Also Monday, the USDA hosted a roundtable discussion with Waterville officials, including Kim Lindlof, director of the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce, Gabe Gauvin of the Central Maine Growth Council, Ames Cyrway of the Framemakers and Jennifer Kierstead with Quarry Road Recreation Area.

These organizations and businesses join the city in wanting to understand the economic impact of recreational hikers, canoeists and kayakers, skiers, mountain bikers, soccer players, golfers, tennis players, fishermen, and swimmers who reside in Waterville and visitors from out of town.

Camoin Associates, an economic development consultant, will work with the city to identify up to 10 existing recreational assets for collective economic impact assessment over the course of a year. Camoin will also prepare a report that will be the blueprint for future recreation-related projects. 

In December USDA Rural Development provided a grant of $712,500 to the Friends of Quarry Road through the Northern Border Regional Commission. The nonprofit will use those funds to improve the facility, including expanding and paving the parking areas and the recreation center.

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