AUGUSTA — The first phase of improvements to Bond Brook Recreation Area could be completed using $50,000 in grant funding.

The money is expected to help finish off projects begun at the city-owned area located roughly between the Augusta State Airport, Mount Vernon Avenue, Bond Brook and the urban area of the city, including the visitors’ center building, trail signs and trail development.

Last year the city received a $50,000 grant from Friends of Maine’s Mountains to be used for capital improvements to the 300-acre recreation area featuring trails for hiking, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, birding and other nonmotorized recreational uses.

The specifics of what the money will be used for were determined by city officials and Augusta Trails, the city’s partner for the past eight years in the development of trails at Bond Brook Recreation Area.

Bill Rogers, president of Augusta Trails, said the $50,000 would be used to complete the already-existing visitors center building by adding solar electricity and heat so it can be used year-round, and start development of trails that ultimately could link to other trail networks, including the Kennebec River Rail Trail and trails at the University of Maine at Augusta, among other projects.

“We’ve got a number of good things going on at Bond Brook that need some funds to help finish them off,” Leif Dahlin, community services director, told city councilors Thursday.

The Augusta Trails board of directors met twice and recommended the city use the money as follows:

• Trail development and maintenance, $16,000;

• Installation of solar panels and electrical equipment for a visitors’ shelter, $12,000;

• Repairs and maintenance of equipment used to maintain the recreation area, $10,000;

• Finishing the visitors’ shelter with painted trim, painted interior and stained exterior, $5,000;

• Updating social media and websites, $3,000;

• Setting up kiosks where information can be posted in the recreation area, $2,000; and

• Posting signs to mark trails and post other information for area users, $2,000.

In general, the money, part of a number of recent grant awards from Friends of Maine’s Mountains totaling $1 million, is meant to help projects that help conserve natural resources.

The grant requires no matching local funds.

Augusta Trails is a local nonprofit group that led efforts, in a partnership with the city as well as the Central Maine Chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association, to create more than 13 miles of trails in the recreation area.

The recreation area is accessed primarily via Tall Pines Way, a dirt road into the site built with help from the Maine Army National Guard off Bond Brook Road. There’s another entrance in the cemetery next to Augusta State Airport.

Rogers told city councilors the influx of money will help improve the wooded recreation area to make it an even better four-season attraction. Rogers said it has been 10 years since the city authorized acquiring additional land to create the recreation area and eight years since councilors authorized trail development there.

In the meantime, about $600,000 in donated money and in-kind contributions of labor have been put into the recreation area.

City councilors are expected to vote on the proposed use of the $50,000 at their meeting next week. On Thursday, officials expressed support for the plan and the work done at the area already.

“I think it’s a gem in the city. I think we all do,” Mayor David Rollins said.

The source of the grant money is a settlement reached between Friends of Maine’s Mountains and Blue Sky West LLC in 2015, when the Friends group, which formed to oppose wind energy projects in Maine, agreed to drop a lawsuit against SunEdison. The company developed the Bingham Wind Project in Piscataquis and Somerset counties in 2016.

The settlement between the two parties specified the wind project developer would provide $2.5 million for conservation projects across Maine, to be distributed through Friends of Maine’s Mountains.

The recreation area hosts the annual Treadfest, featuring mountain bike races, which drew more than 300 people to participate over two days, June 24 and 25.

Rogers and Dahlin said the area’s professionally designed trails one day could host international ski races.

Rogers said long-term possibilities at the area include a tubing and sledding hill with a lift, snowmaking, and, if the funding and interest are there, a biathlon range.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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