SKOWHEGAN — Main Street Skowhegan has been awarded a grant for $83,000 to hire two full-time AmeriCorps workers for three years each to help implement a plan for outdoor recreation as a partner with Outdoor Sport Institute, a group that received $25,000 to strengthen communities through outdoor sports and activities.

The goal, said Kristina Cannon, executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, is community revitalization through outdoor recreation.

“The $25,000 grant was awarded to our partner, the Outdoor Sport Institute,” Cannon said. “That is to help cover costs of Skowhegan outdoor recreation workshops and training run by the institute. With help from the Outdoor Sport Institute and community stakeholders, we’ve drafted an action plan for getting our community members outside and active.

“This plan for engaging our local residents is the piece that will truly catalyze change in our community.”

In addition to scheduling and carrying out all outdoor recreation programs, such as walking groups, river paddling and mountain biking, the AmeriCorps workers will recruit local volunteers who will help Main Street and its partners maintain the program for years to come, Cannon said.

“Having two full-time people coordinating outdoor programming for our residents will be a game changer for our town,” she said. “We are so excited.”

Cannon said the AmeriCorps workers will be Main Street Skowhegan employees who will be paid a living allowance, per standard AmeriCorps practices.

The Outdoor Sport Institute grant will enable Main Street to send people to their workshops for free, she said.

The AmeriCorps grant amount for 2019 is $21,700 because it’s for nine months instead of 12, according to Cannon. In 2020 and 2021 — twelve months each year — Main Street expects funding to be $31,000 each year, for a total three-year grant of $83,700.

The Skowhegan Outdoor Recreation Action Plan, as it is called, seeks to “cultivate a cultural shift” toward a more active lifestyle in Skowhegan — specifically among the town’s residents.

“It provides a road map for promoting our current outdoor recreation facilities, encouraging walking and low-impact activities, providing skill-building and regular outdoor recreation programming, ensuring access to these activities, energizing volunteers to build capacity, and enhancing current trails and creating new ones,” Cannon said.

The plan’s goal is to encourage changes in behavior that will increase outdoor recreation by 20 percent in five years. In partnership with the Outdoor Sport Institute, and with the two AmeriCorps members leading implementation and volunteer recruitment, the action team will begin programming in the spring of 2019.

Outdoor recreation is an important piece of the puzzle for Skowhegan’s revitalization, Cannon said. In addition to the town planning for the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area, Main Street has a plan for getting local residents outside, active and engaged with nature and inviting visitors and tourists to boost the local economy.

“A community full of active people is a community that is healthy, vibrant and happy — a place that people are proud to call home,” Cannon said. “That’s what we’re striving for in Skowhegan.”

The Skowhegan AmeriCorps Outdoor Recreation Program will operate in part through a Maine Rural AmeriCorps Grant. The amount of the grant for this year is $21,700. There is a 30 percent match requirement, which Main Street and its partners will work to raise to cover the match.

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, each taking a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement, according to the group’s website. Members commit their time to address critical community needs such as increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks and preparing for disasters.

Members also help communities recover from damage caused by natural and other disasters and build affordable housing for families to increase economic opportunity for those living in poverty.

AmeriCorps members foster mentoring programs to connect students with community members who can help with academic performance and college preparation. They also tackle such chores as removing trash and other man-made debris from local wetlands to promote environmental sustainability and encourage community members to donate fresh produce to local schools to promote healthy futures and reduce childhood obesity.

AmeriCorps members assist veterans and military families in filing for benefits claims, so they get access to the resources they need.

The Outdoor Recreation Program also will tap in to the Run of River Whitewater Recreation Area, a planned recreation area in and around Skowhegan’s downtown Kennebec River Gorge that will include a whitewater park with enhanced rapids and waves for kayakers, river surfers, paddle boarders, tubers, and other water enthusiasts. The plan also includes terraced seating; a four-season trail system on 300-plus acres for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing; and an enhanced fish habitat for anglers and a riverfront promenade.

“This is a project of our time,” Cannon said. “It’s one that will bolster human connections and combat rising poverty, unemployment and obesity rates in one of the poorest and least healthy counties in the state.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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