Camden pursues federal money to help fund Snow Bowl upgrade

Wed, 07/10/2013 - 12:00pm

    CAMDEN -- Town leaders have endorsed the pursuit of federal money to help offset planned improvements at the Camden Snow Bowl and the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area. If approved, the funding would be used to develop infrastructure at the mountain, which is home to a downhill and Nordic ski area, hiking and mountain biking trails, a ballfield and pond.

    Brian Hodges, Camden's development director, is writing the $200,000 grant, which will be submitted to the Northern Border Regional Commission. The project the money would be directed toward is the $6.5 million Ragged Mountain Redevelopment, an ongoing effort initiated in 2008 by community members and the town. The goal is to raise $4.5 million through private donations, and another $2 million through a Camden voter-approved bond to support building a new lodge, installing a new chairlift, improving infrastructure at the mountain, expanding ski areas and snowmaking capacity.

    Hodges told the Camden Select Board July 2 at a regularly scheduled meeting that the Northern Border Regional Commission grant deadline is July 15. If Hodge's application is approved, the $200,000 would be used to offset the $4.5 million private fundraising effort. So far, the Ragged Mountain Redevelopment Committee has raised $3.8 million. Hodges said the town anticipates crafting a warrant article for the November ballot asking Camden citizens if they are ready to bond the other $2 million for the project.

    The town will not hear whether the grant application is approved until the beginning of October, past the deadline for getting warrant language ready for voters; hence, the inclusion of the possible $200,000 in the private fundraising effort.

    The Northern Border Regional Commission is a federal-state governmental agency whose task is to promote economic well-being of the citizens and businesses in a region comprising 36 counties in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont. It includes 12 counties in Maine; four in New Hampshire, 14 in New York, and six in Vermont, in an area of the country that the commission describes as afflicted by "chronic and contiguous long-term economic distress."

    The commission is to help "eliminate these conditions, concentrating its efforts to develop water, sewer, energy and telecommunications infrastructure; providing job skills and employment related education, as well as entrepreneurship, technology and business development; provide basic health care and other public services for those areas that are severely economically distressed and underdeveloped; and to promote resource conservation, tourism, recreation, and preservation of open spaces in a manner consistent with economic development goals; and finally, to promote the development of renewable and alternative energy sources."

    The commission was authorized in the federal 2008 Farm Bill, according to Hodges, and, "is an important regional coordination mechanism for the Northern Forest states, as well as a potentially significant new source of investment for economic and community development in the region."

    In May, the Bangor office of the commission announced that $1.2 million was available for grant distribution, to be awarded in October.

    In 2012, $250,000 was awarded to three St. John Valley communities to promote expanded tourism and economic development opportunities, Hodges told the Select Board in a June 27 memo.

    "I propose Camden submits an application for the Ragged Mountain redevelopment project for $200,000," he wrote. " Maine’s Economic Development District’s are factors in the application process through facilitation, regional priorities, and technical assistance if selected.  RMRA was determined to be a top priority project of the Mid Coast Economic Development District, which Camden is a member of.  Ragged Mountain Recreation Area clearly fits the categories of tourism and recreation."

    There is no required matching funding from the town, said Hodges; however, the amount awarded cannot be more than 50 percent of the project cost.

    "In our case, we are well within that," said Hodges, July 10.

    The process is expected to be competitive, he said, with anticipated one or two awards going to each state in the commission's region.

    In a many layered governmental process, Hodge's application will be submitted to the Midcoast Economic Development District, which in turn, will submit it to the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development, which then, in turn, will submit Maine applications to the commission.


    Editorial Director Lynda Clancy can be reached at; 706-6657.