We are very excited to announce that we have received a $26,000 Grant from the Northern Forest Center to help with the construction of the forthcoming mountain bike skills progression park and on-hill trail system at Shonyo Park.
“We hope the Lyndon Outing Club Bike Park project will begin the development of a new hub for mountain biking closer to downtown Lyndonville,” said Caleb Gale of the Lyndon Outing Club.
Bringing more trail users closer to the downtown area will provide the opportunity for economic growth in the areas of retail, lodging, and restaurants, among others. The park will initially offer a skills progression area and trails tailored to new and beginning riders. Eventually, we hope to develop more trails and plan to explore a connection to the rest of the Kingdom Trails network. The park will be open to the public and free to use for locals and visitors alike. This grant from the Northern Forest Center will fund the majority of the first phase of the bike park project, with the remainder made up of grants from Kingdom Trails and Blue Cross Blue Shield, along with Lyndon Outing Club fundraising.
In total, the North Forest Center awarded $317,000 to Help Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont Communities Improve Recreation Opportunities.
Grants from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative will help 11 communities and organizations serve residents and visitors with improved outdoor recreation opportunities.
“This year’s funded projects include all kinds of trail development, from accessible community trails to mountain biking and an arts trail, as well beginner-level ski jump hills, mountain biking skills parks, visitor information and a safe crossings program,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. “The grant program invests in projects that support economic development and outdoor recreation opportunities for residents in our region’s rural communities.”
The program is an initiative of the Northern Forest Center in Maine and New Hampshire, offered in partnership with Northeastern Vermont Development Association and NEK (Northeast Kingdom) Collaborative in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The initiative is supported by the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC).
“For the second year in a row, this unique partnership has identified crucial projects in our region that support what those of us who live here have known for a long time, that this is the place to recreate outdoors and to build a business that enables outstanding experiences for both returning visitors and new friends,” said Rich Grogan, executive director of the Northern Border Regional Commission.
The $317,526 granted this year leverages matching funds and in-kind project support for a total $515,491 investment in community-based outdoor recreation amenities. Coupled with 10 grants awarded in 2020, the initiative’s support for outdoor recreation infrastructure in the region totals $619,317 in grant funds toward a total $1.1 million investment in recreation projects.
“NVDA is pleased to once again partner with the Northern Forest Center to advance the Northeast Kingdom’s outdoor recreational economy through funding local community-supported projects,” said David Snedeker, executive director of the Northeastern Vermont Development Association.
In St. Johnsbury, Vermont, the town will create a trail network to complement its Riverfront Path and connection to the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail. “The in-town trail network will be a key marketing message that will allow us to attract walkers and bikers to our Designated Downtown shopping and dining hub,” said Town Manager Chad L. Whitehead. “This increase in local usage and tourist visitation will have huge benefits to our local retail and hospitality businesses.”
The outdoor recreation grant program is part of the Northern Forest Center’s focus on destination development for the region, which helps communities create the amenities and experiences that can attract new visitors, new residents, and new businesses while sustaining and enriching quality of life for people who already live in the destination area.
In partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism, the Center has run Community Destination Academies for the Greenville, Rangeley, and Bethel, Maine areas and recently launched the Northern Forest Rural Tourism Academy to help communities in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and northern New Hampshire leverage their outdoor recreation amenities to make regional tourism destination development efforts more strategic and effective. The Rural Destination Academy is funded by the Northern Border Regional Commission, USDA Rural Development, and the Center.
“The first round of grants last year coincided with the arrival of Covid-19,” said Short of the Northern Forest Center. “The projects we funded were planned before the pandemic, but they added resources and infrastructure that served residents looking to get outdoors for exercise, fun, and stress relief. This year applicants proposed more than $557,000 in projects, demonstrating that the trend toward active outdoor recreation is strong for residents and for visitors coming to the region.”
Data reported by the Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association, from its annual outdoor participation report show a 28% increase in camping and a 16% increase in hiking nationwide in 2020.