Liz McKeil, ED of the Moosehead Marine MuseumAttendees of the Moosehead Lake region’s first-ever Community Destination Academy are buzzing with energy about their initial “destination development” projects. As a result of the program, at the end of August, a rebuilt lakeside boardwalk will be installed in the center of Greenville, and participants are working together to enhance the capacity of 10 local events to attract visitors to the region.  

The Northern Forest Center is working with its partners in the Maine Woods Consortium to bring this program to the Moosehead region. Additional partners include the Maine Office of Tourism, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, and Destination Moosehead Lake. 

“I really see the community pulling together in a way that is heartening, and there’s a sense of optimism here that I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Liz McKeil, executive director of the Moosehead Marine Museum and one of the Academy’s attendees. 

Bethel Community ForestMahoosuc Pathways has hired an experienced forestry team to conduct a Natural Resource Inventory on the proposed 978-acre Bethel Community Forest in western Maine. Foresters Dave DeGruttola and Patrick Smerczynski of LandVest in Bethel will also help the community create a 10- to 15-year stewardship plan for the property.

The Northern Forest Center and the Trust for Public Land are partnering with Mahoosuc Pathways, the Town of Bethel and local residents to create this new Community Forest, which, when completed, will provide access to the neighboring Bingham Forest and create a 3,600-acre tapestry of conserved lands between Bethel and the peaks of Sunday River.

To address the critical need for reliable broadband in the rural communities of western Maine, the Center has helped develop a roadmap intended to lead to WiFi Hotspots, digital literacy training, community infrastructure, and a new regional fiber loop. The newly released Maine West Regional Broadband Technology Plan focuses on improving high speed internet access in the Maine West area that stretches across the Oxford Hills, Bethel, and River Valley areas. 8720604364 85c5931a14 z

The plan grows from a yearlong process involving nearly 100 people that was led by the Maine West collaborative, a partnership coordinated by the Northern Forest Center. Members include local and regional organizations dedicated to addressing systemic rural challenges and enhancing community well-being in western Maine through increased collaboration across the economic, education, health, and conservation sectors.

The ConnectME Authority awarded a $78,000-grant to the Center to fund the project, which was coordinated by Community Concepts Finance Corporation, another partner in Maine West. The Maine West Regional Broadband Technology Plan includes recommendations in three categories: Regional Collaboration, Community Infrastructure Plans, and Digital Inclusion and Literacy.

Abby Leethy NW Gourmet Girl crpdA $20,000 grant from the Northern Forest Center is helping entrepreneur Abby Freethy expand Northwoods Gourmet Girl from its origins as a producer of all-natural pantry staples into a full lifestyle brand. 

Freethy founded Northwoods Gourmet Girl in Greenville, Maine, in 2005 to produce healthy alternatives to common items such as ketchup, mustard, relish, jam, preserves and desert sauces. She’s ready to grow her business, for herself and for Greenville.

The matching grant from the Center will help Freethy launch a new line of branded, food-oriented home goods ranging from dinnerware, glassware, and pottery to kitchen islands, farm tables, chairs, benches, and bookshelves. All products are based on proprietary designs and most are produced by Maine-based woodworkers and craftspeople.

 “I want people to experience the food in the environment in which they would enjoy it, for instance by sitting at the farm table,” said Freethy. She’s making this possible by converting the first floor of her home into a destination where people can experience her food products in a home-like setting furnished with Northwood Gourmet Girl-branded home goods.