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Grant Program Helps Communities Improve Outdoor Recreation Amenities

CONCORD, NH:  Projects in six counties in western Maine, northern New Hampshire, and northeast Vermont can take advantage of grant funds from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative to respond to the increased demand for outdoor recreation due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The program is an initiative of the Northern Forest Center in Maine and New Hampshire, 

offered in partnership with Northeastern Vermont Development Association/NEK Collaborative 

in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The initiative is supported by the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC).


“The first round of grants last year coincided with the arrival of Covid-19,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. “The 10 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. I expect many of this year’s applicants will be responding to the increased demand for outdoor recreation.”


Early 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. 


The Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative funds projects that build destination appeal and related economic opportunity and are closely tied to community-developed plans and priorities. Eligible applicants include public entities, Indian Tribes, and non-profit organizations that design, build, maintain or market trails, parks, wayfinding, and related outdoor recreation and community infrastructure and amenities. Grants will range from $10,000 to $50,000. Program details and application are available at


Applications are due by 5 p.m. Eastern Time, April 14, 2021. Approximately $200,000 in grant funds is available this year across the six counties, with an additional $100,000 available specifically for projects in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom through separate funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission to the Northeastern Vermont Development Association. Applicants can apply to both grant opportunities through one application.


Projects must be located in Caledonia, Essex, Orleans counties in Vermont; Coos County, New Hampshire; Oxford, Franklin counties, Maine, and qualify in one of the following categories:

Wayfinding & Interpretation. Public access and navigation improvements including signage, maps and/or other informational materials.

• Outdoor recreation infrastructure. Trail development, signage/kiosks/maps, or other outdoor recreation infrastructure improvements. Any infrastructure must be owned by or under the long-term control (minimum 20-year lease) of the eligible applicant.

• Marketing. Marketing activities tied directly to outdoor recreation (as a portion of a larger project; application cannot be for marketing alone).

• Supporting amenities. Such as parking or downtown infrastructure that will directly support outdoor recreation development. 


In the first round of grants in June 2020, the Initiative awarded $302,000 to the following 10 projects:

  • Northern Forest Canoe Trail, regional: $19,600 to map and promote underutilized waterways of the Northern Forest.
  • Mahoosuc Pathways, Bethel, Maine: $30,000 to develop a “Main Street to the Mountains” recreational wayfinding system.
  • Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, Rangeley, Maine: $36,000 to implement a strategic wayfinding project that enhances visitors’ experience, establishes a consistent brand, and promotes healthier lifestyles.
  • Western Foothills Land Trust, Norway, Maine: $21,000 to connect the recreational and educational assets of Roberts Farm Preserve to downtown Norway.
    Craftsbury Community Care Center, Craftsbury, Vermont: $30,000 to build accessible paths open to the public and connected to the town trail system.
  • Greensboro Land Trust, Greensboro, Vermont: $12,000 to repair bridges and add and improve signage at Barr Hill.
  • NorthWoods Stewardship Center, E. Charleston, Vermont: $50,000 to replace the main lodge roof.
  • Town of Brighton, Brighton, Vermont: $38,200 for improvements to Island Pond’s Lakeside Park, including trailhead improvements and a dock.
  • Town of Granby, VT, Granby, Vermont: $15,000 to maintain trails and improve signage at the Cow Mountain Pond Municipal Forest Area.
  • Vermont Land Trust, Newport, Vermont: $50,000 to build a boardwalk that connects Newport’s beach area to Bluffside Farm, creating a waterfront recreation corridor.


The Northern Forest Center is a regional innovation and investment partner creating rural vibrancy by connecting people, economy, and the forested landscape.


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