WHITEFIELD — New hiking trails will be coming to Whitefield after town officials received a $25,000 grant from a international organization.

Town officials announced at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting that money from the Atlantic Salmon Federation was available. The grant was part of a community benefits package from a project spearheaded by the federation and the Midcoast Conservancy that removed the Coopers Mills Dam. The 200-year-old dam was removed this summer after years of planning.

Kit Pfeiffer, a member of the Whitefield Trails Committee, said the immediate project that will be funded is construction of a trail starting at Heath Road and providing access to Weary Pond.

“There isn’t really any public access,” she said. “It’s going to require some building of infrastructure, but now we have the opportunity to pay for some infrastructure to make it safe and accessible to get out there.”

Anna Fiedler, Midcoast Conservancy’s director of conservation, said the group works closely with the Whitefield Trails Committee. The town’s three trails all run through portions of land held under easements by the conservancy, and the proposed trail to Weary Pond will as well.

Fiedler said the Whitefield Trails Committee will have purview over expenditure of the funds and talks have only just begun about projects, but the groups will continue to work together.

There are four trails in Whitefield, but one is owned by the Midcoast Conservancy. The town owns Marr’s Ridge, West Branch and Happy Farm trails; the Conservancy owns the Salmon Preserve Trail.

The Marr’s Ridge Trail is the only one of the four trails that is not in the watershed and exempt from those funds.

Selectman Tony Marple, who made the announcement Tuesday, said the money would last the trail committee “a long time.”

“We don’t really spend much on the trails,” he said. “It’s mostly volunteer work.”

Andy Goode, vice president of U.S. Programs for the Atlantic Salmon Federation, said the dam removal project was intended mainly to help fish pass through the area, but trail funding was added to the project to sweeten the deal for the whole town. He said most townspeople were disconnected from the dam because it’s on the outskirts of Whitefield.

“A lot of times, if it’s just about fish passage, the towns aren’t interested,” Goode said. “A lot of our projects include a community benefits package; we were trying to sell the project to the whole town.”

Better trails, he said, would make the public more aware of the river and watershed and urge people to take better care of the land.

“A lot of these rivers that are dammed and polluted aren’t great assets to the town,” Goode said. “When people have more places to go, it just increases appreciation for the river.”

The community benefits package also included about $35,000 for future maintenance at the Coopers Mills Dam site.

Pfeiffer said the committee was grateful for the funding from the federation. A long-range plan is in the works to determine how to spend the money best, she said.

“It is a lot of money for a small town, and we’re just really delighted and honored and grateful to the Atlantic Salmon Federation,” Pfeiffer said.

In November, Whitefield voters passed an ordinance laying out policy for patrons of a new recreational area at the site of the demolished Coopers Mills Dam. Marple said on Thursday that the recreational area will open in the period of March to May 2019.

Goode said the next project the federation will take up will be removing a 23-foot portion of the Head Tide Dam in Alna. The project will include kiosks and signs at the site and some structural improvements around the dam. Goode said the federation’s ultimate goal is fix the whole watershed, which has a history of mill dams that prohibit fish passage.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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