Camden’s Economic Development Director Karen Brace is working on two grant applications, one for a $250,000 grant to help pay for the new lodge at the Camden Snow Bowl; the other, a $125,000 grant to help with bike trail construction at Ragged Mountain.
The Select Board gave her the green light at its May 16 meeting to pursue the grants, one from the Northern Border Regional Commission, the other from the Maine Recreational Trails Program.
The Commission is a federal-state partnership whose purpose is to direct federal money to economic and community development while leveraging private sector investment. The Maine Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is administered by Maine’s Dept. of Agriculture, Recreation and Forestry, which directs federal dollars to motorized and unmotorized trail projects.
Both funding sources, if approved, would result in matching grants for Camden, which means the Commission or Trails Program would contribute either 80 percent or 50 percent of the total grant, with the rest of the money deriving from local sources.
But Brace told the Select Board that she was not adding costs on the Town of Camden; rather, she was talking with the nonprofit Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation to help with the local share.
According to Brace, the Camden Four Season Committee — consisting of volunteers appointed last year by the Select Board — endorsed requesting the grants.
She is getting help from the Damariscotta-based Midcoast Economic Development District (MEDD) to write the grants, in particular, from Bill Najpauer, who is the district’s Planning and Development Development director. Naipauer was formerly Rockport’s economic and planning director.
MEDD is an economic and community development nonprofit serving all of Sagadahoc and Knox counties, the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell in Cumberland County; Lincolnville, Searsmont, Belmont and Northport in Waldo County, and Wiscasset in Lincoln County.
At the May 16 Select Board meeting, Four Season Committee Chairman Morgan Laidlaw said the goal was to meet a June 2 grant application deadline.
That $250,000 Northern Borders Commission grant, if awarded to Camden, would go toward completion of the new Snow Bowl lodge, a construction project that has been on hold pending additional funding. Construction of the proposed lodge, which has yet to proceed through the town’s planning board review, was part of a $2 million bond measure approved by Camden voters 2013.
The new lodge was part of the larger $6.5 million publicly-privately funded Ragged Mountain Redevelopment project, the costs of which exceeded $6.5 million before the new lodge could be engineered. The Foundation is currently raising more funds to cover new lodge construction, and the Northern Borders grant is another attempt to get the cash flowing toward that project.
After the meeting, Brace said the lodge, now referred to as the Community Outdoor Center, is to help the Snow Bowl be a four-season resource.
Brace said the long-term vision for the Camden Snow Bowl, “has been and continues to be to create a sustainable four-season recreation area that provides recreational opportunities and activities for all ages and abilities (skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, tubing, skating, hiking, mountain biking, tennis and field sports) as well as year-round economic growth for Camden and the Midcoast.”
She said that she had “talked to the Ragged Mountain Recreational Area Foundation about looking at a scenario whereby private funds already raised by the foundation toward the Community Outdoor Center at the Snow Bowl could also qualify as a pre-existing portion of the match.”
Braced added: “To be clear, any funds that the Foundation has raised toward the Community Outdoor Center are 100-percent dedicated toward that, and as part of the overall strategy, the grants could help supplement what’s already been raised for the Outdoor Center.”
According to a 2013 Camden Snow Bowl Impact Study (see attached PDF), the Snow Bowl contributes $3.7 million toward the town’s winter economy, said Brace, and, “even more now as the ski area operation has become a Maine destination.”
The Snow Bowl, said Brace, was placed in one of the top tiers of the Midcoast Economic district’s Community Economic Development Strategy list, a more strategic spot from which to receive federal economic development funding.
That listing designates the Snow Bowl as natural and cultural asset and grant money would go toward, “Adding chairlifts for alpine skiing and mountain biking, constructing a new main lodge, improving trails, parking and infrastructure to increase year round tourism to create a regional destination for events and functions at Ragged Mountain Recreation Area.”
The strategy list also includes other area municipal projects, such as rebuilding Vinalhaven’s downtown sidewalks and installing sewer, water and high-speed fiber along Route 1 in Rockport to serve Pen Bay Medical Center and other medical offices.
The RTP trail money ($125,000) would go toward enhancing the walking and mountain bike trail system on Ragged Mountain.
Residents, town question unapproved trail work
At the May 16 Select Board meeting, Camden residents Dorie Klein and Dana Strout, who live near the Snow Bowl, said they had unwittingly stumbled upon unapproved trail work on the town-owned mountain land.
Klein said she learned that a new mountain bike trail extended to the private property owned by her and Strout, and that plans entailed it routing across other private property of different owners, and then to the privately-owned Dirt Road, which, Klein said, is owned by Strout.
But, Klein said no one ever approached them about the new bike trail; nor, did the town’s Planning Board know about the project.
At the May 16 meeting, the Select Board said they, too, were unaware with new bike trail construction on the mountain, and subsequently ordered all new trail construction on the town-owned portion of Ragged Mountain to halt.
The board learned that the trail design had been approved by former Snow Bowl Manager Landon Fake, and was under independent construction by local mountain bikers.
Klein and Strout urged the Select Board to review Ragged Mountain projects and questioned how a trail could be built on Snow Bowl property without planning board oversight.
“Since Landon and Pat have left, it seems prudent to review previous agreements before proceeding, especially considering the lack of oversight that has admittedly caused so many other costly problems at the Snow Bowl,” said Klein.
Klein and recently-appointed Snow Bowl Manager Beth Ward walked the trail, and Ward told the board that the project had been stopped and everything that had been touched would be remediated.
Strout urged the Select Board to read the 69-page master plan for developing bike trails at the mountain. (See attached PDF)
Board member Don White told Strout that the bike plan, “was paid for by the Foundation money and has never been implemented and hasn’t been approved by anybody.”
“It’s just concept, is what it is,” said board Chairman John French.
• Hosmer Pond project emerges as alternative to paying DEP fine (May 16, 2017)
• Camden Snow Bowl forensic audit report delayed, again (March 17, 2017)
• Camden Snow Bowl project up to $8.4 million, fundraising resumes (Feb. 3, 2015)
• Camden Snow Bowl to start making snow Jan. 5 (Jan. 2)
• Homage to Camden’s Big T (March 15, 2014)
• By wide margin, Camden voters approve Snow Bowl improvement bond (Nov. 5, 2013)
• Camden committee selects new parks and recreation director (Sept. 6, 2013)
• Camden considers $2 million Snow Bowl bond, ordinance amendments Nov. 5 (Sept. 4, 2014)
• Camden ready to put $2 million bond before voters (Aug. 21, 2013)
• Camden pursues federal money to help with Snow Bowl upgrade (July 10, 2013)
• Camden learns about refurbished chairlifts, woven grips and haul ropes (April 10, 2013)
• Last run for Jeff (Jan. 21, 2013)
• Stellar start to season at Camden Snow Bowl (Jan. 9, 2013)
• Camden’s Ragged Mountain loses a good friend (Nov. 7, 2012)
Reach Editorial Director Lynda Clancy at firstname.lastname@example.org; 207-706-6657