artist rendering of Newport VT boardwalkThe Center has opened the second year of funding for the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative, which provides grants for outdoor recreation infrastructure development that builds destination appeal and related economic opportunity in selected counties in northeast Vermont, northern New Hampshire, and western Maine.  Approximately $200,000 in grant funds is available, provided by the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC). 
An additional $100,000 is available for projects in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom through separate NBRC funding to the Northeastern Vermont Development Association. Applicants can apply to both grant opportunities through one application. 
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 open to public and non-profit applicants for projects that design, build, maintain or market trails, wayfinding and related outdoor recreation and community infrastructure and amenities in ways consistent with community-developed plans and priorities. Grants will  range from $10,000 to $50,000. 

Eligible Applicants

  • Public entities 
  • Indian Tribes 
  • Non-profit entities described in section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code 
  • Ineligible applicants include for-profit entities, LLCs and other entities that are not a 501(c). A non-profit identified by a state that does not have a federally recognized 501(c) status is not an eligible applicant.

Eligible Projects

  • Projects must be located in one or more of the following counties: Caledonia, Essex, Orleans counties in Vermont; Coos County, New Hampshire; Oxford and Franklin counties, Maine. 
  • Wayfinding & Interpretation. Public access and navigation improvements including signage, maps and/or other informational materials. 
  • Outdoor recreation infrastructure. Trails 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. E.g. parking, downtown infrastructure that will directly support outdoor recreation development. Any infrastructure must be owned by or under the long-term control (minimum 20-year lease) of the eligible applicant.

How to Apply

  • Applications are due by 5 p.m. ET April 14, 2021. Approximately $200,000 is available, with an additional $100,000 available to projects in the Northeast Kingdom. This will be the final round of funding from the initiative. 
 Download complete application guidelines. 


Grants in 2020: Awards $302,000 to Improve Recreational Opportunities in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont

Ten grants totaling $302,000 will help improve outdoor recreation opportunities in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

The grants are provided by the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative, which is managed by the Northern Forest Center in partnership with the Northeastern Vermont Development Association and NEK (Northeast Kingdom) Collaborative of Vermont. Funding comes from the Northern Border Regional Commission.

The Destination Development Initiative helps communities develop recreational assets that attract visitors and drive visitor spending, while also improving quality of life for local residents. “Many of the projects, for example, will connect existing recreation areas to downtown commercial areas through new trails and recreational amenities that residents and visitors will both be able to enjoy,” said Joe Short, vice president of the Northern Forest Center. “We tailored this grant program to invest in economic development and to serve people living in these communities,” said Short.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation economy supports 206,000 jobs with a payroll of $6.3 billion across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. The sector generates $22.4 billion in consumer spending and $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues in the three states.

"Over recent years, we’ve seen many Northeast Kingdom communities embrace outdoor recreation as a way to build and strengthen their local economies,” said David Snedeker, executive director of Northeastern Vermont Development Association. “With the support of Northern Border Regional Commission funding, NVDA is pleased that we are able to assist these local efforts."

In Norway, Maine, the funding will help build a Nordic ski trail linking the trail system at Roberts Farm Preserve to downtown Norway, creating a skiable village.  “In the winter of 2018-2019 more than 3,000 skiers and snowshoers enjoyed the 20k trail system,” said Western Foothills Land Trust Executive Director Lee Dassler. “Those visitors frequent our Main Street restaurants, shops, and services while in town, and this trail will connect them directly to the downtown.”

Roberts Farm PreserveOther projects selected for funding include trails, wayfinding signage, maps and itineraries to connect paddlers with underused waterways, and improvements to parks and recreation buildings.  The projects will serve diverse recreation groups, from paddlers to mountain bikers to people requiring wheelchair-accessible paths.

The initiative prioritizes projects that are in sync with community-developed plans and priorities. In Rangeley, Maine, a wayfinding project emerged as a priority from a months-long community destination planning process.

“Outdoor recreation is a critical component of economic development in the Northern Forest,” said Rich Grogan, executive director of the Northern Border Regional Commission. “We’re excited that these investments will further the development of this sector and build capacity in our region.”

The $302,000 in federal grant funds awarded will be matched by $608,000 in local matching funds, bringing the total investment in recreational development through this initiative to $910,000.

Another round of funding will be available in 2021 to public and non-profit entities in Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties in Vermont; Coos County, New Hampshire; and Oxford and Franklin counties in Maine. New funding opportunities will be announced in the biweekly Northern Forest News Digest. Subscriptions are available free by signing up at

 "Outdoor recreation trail networks contribute significantly to our region’s quality of life and economic well-being,” said Katherine Sims of the NEK Collaborative. "We're excited about this opportunity to invest in trail infrastructure projects in the region and support the future growth of this important sector."

The full list of grant recipients includes:


•    Northern Forest Canoe Trail, regional: $19,600 to map and promote underutilized waterways of the Northern Forest.
"The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is excited to use funds from the Northern Forest Destination Development Initiative to expand our catalogue of resources for paddlers,” said Karrie Thomas, executive director of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. “This Summer we will create maps, videos and trip descriptions of select day- and weekend- trips in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, Coos County New Hampshire and Maine's High Peaks. This project aligns with our mission to help paddlers discover the region and fall in love with our waterways, landscapes and communities," she said.


•    Mahoosuc Pathways, Bethel, Maine: $30,000 to develop a “Main Street to the Mountains” recreational wayfinding system.
“The Main St. to the Mountains project will help us connect through trails and wayfinding the places where people live and work with where they play,” said Gabe Perkins, executive director of Mahoosuc Pathways. “It grows out of our recent Community Destination Academy experience and years of community effort. This grant elevates the project from an idea to a reality; without it we wouldn't be moving forward."

•    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.
“This funding ensures that we can implement a wayfinding system for the Rangeley Region,” said David Miller, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust. “We are lucky to live in one of the best parts of Maine and this grant will help us all -- community members and visitors -- get outside and get active and healthy. Given the challenges facing our nation, there has never been a better time than now to increase access to the great outdoors for all of us. With support from the Center we are on our way!” he said.

•    Western Foothills Land Trust, Norway, Maine: $21,000 to connect the recreational and educational assets of Roberts Farm Preserve to downtown Norway.
“The funding will help build a Nordic ski trail linking the trail system at Roberts Farm Preserve to downtown Norway, creating a skiable village,” said Western Foothills Land Trust Executive Director Lee Dassler.  “In the winter of 2018-2019 more than 3,000 skiers and snowshoers enjoyed the 20k trail system. Those visitors frequent our Main Street restaurants, shops, and services while in town, and this trail will connect them directly to the downtown,” she said.


•    Craftsbury Community Care Center, Craftsbury, Vermont: $30,000 to build accessible paths open to the public and connected to the town trail system.
“Our new ADA handicap accessible trail will allow for all residents at The Care Center to participate in healthy activities with increased independence and safety while having greater access to nature throughout the trail system,” said Norm Hanson, board member with the Care Center. “The Town of Craftsbury Trails Initiative aims to have trails in each village to enhance quality of life for all, and this ADA accessible trail is strongly supported by the town as a special feature that will eventually connect with town trails. This grant will allow this long-awaited project to become a reality and in turn enhance the lives of many individuals,” he said.

•    Greensboro Land Trust, Greensboro, Vermont: $12,000 to repair bridges and add and improve signage at Barr Hill.
"We’ll be linking and upgrading the two most popular hiking trails in Greensboro -- the Porter Brook Nature Trail ending near Caspian Lake, and The Nature Conservancy’s Barr Hill Natural Area,” said Clive Gray, chairman of the Greensboro Land Trust. “Barr Hill, acquired by The Vermont Nature Conservancy in 1971, is its oldest preserve. The Porter Brook Nature Trail was conserved by the Greensboro Land Trust in 2018. The two trails attract hundreds of local and out-of-town visitors in spring, summer and fall. We hope that improved structures, signage and safety features on both trails will enable us to attract many more visitors to our town."

•    NorthWoods Stewardship Center, E. Charleston, Vermont: $50,000 to replace the main lodge roof.
“This grant is providing critical matching funds to replace the roof on the NorthWoods Lodge,” said Maria Young, executive director of the NorthWoods Stewardship Center. “The lodge is the hub of outdoor recreation and conservation programs on our 1,500-acre campus and the gateway to a network of multi-season trails that stretch through the Kingdom Heritage Lands, one of the largest and wildest contiguous forests in Vermont. The new roof will end moisture damage to the building and provide an opportunity to install high-efficiency insulation and waterproofing. We expect to reduce heating costs and better use our large hosting space through the winter and shoulder months,” she said.

•    Town of Brighton, Brighton, Vermont: $38,200 for improvements to Island Pond’s Lakeside Park, including trailhead improvements and a dock.
“The proposed dock on Island Pond will bring the lake closer visually to the downtown and provide a place for residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of the lake,” said Town Manager Joel Cope.  “It will also allow boaters to tie up and enjoy the downtown for eating, shopping, walking or other recreational activities in the town Lakeside Park.”

•    Town of Granby, VT, Granby, Vermont: $15,000 to maintain trails and improve signage at the Cow Mountain Pond Municipal Forest Area.
“Without the funds from this grant, the Town of Granby would not be able to maintain our trail system to acceptable hiking safety standards,” said Bruce Berryman, a volunteer in Granby working on the project. “Visitors and residents will now have a more enjoyable experience as they walk through the 1,800 acres of pristine forest environment, including a patch of 200 acres of old growth forest, surrounding Cow Mountain Pond.”

•    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.
“Newport City has embraced ‘looking to the lake’ as a way to build economic opportunity that supports residents, and attracts new businesses and visitors,” said Tracy Zschau, vice president for conservation at the Vermont Land Trust. “This project is one of several that are building off each other and leveraging state, federal and private dollars to change Newport’s relationship to Lake Memphremagog and to the outdoor recreation economy. Vermont Land Trust is thrilled to be a partner during this exciting time in the region, and we’re so grateful for the timely support of the Northern Forest Outdoor Recreation grant program,” she said.