SKOWHEGAN (AP) – Improvement projects on four of the state’s scenic byways will be funded by a total of $527,000 in federal grants, officials announced.

About 45 percent of the money will go toward work on the Old Canada Road, a 78-mile section of U.S. Route 201 through Somerset County.

Plans include a North Woods interpretive center along the road, which runs from the Madison-Solon town line north to the Canadian border north of Jackman.

The Old Canada Road commemorates an old trade and travel route that connected settlements in Quebec with inland and coastal Maine.

Backers of the project hope $243,000 for its development will help economically struggling Somerset County.

Almost three-quarters of that money would go toward acquiring land about halfway up the road and developing a center on the North Woods.

Other funds would be used to map the byway’s assets, such as scenic views, plan to link area recreational trails to the highway, and pay for the project’s administration,

Robert Haynes, coordinator of the Old Canada Road Scenic Byway project, said Friday that officials have already identified three possible sites for the center, including one in West Forks.

Officials want to acquire about 30 acres in order to be able to construct nature trails and a building that could accommodate exhibits on forestry, logging and maple syrup production, he said.

“We want to establish a destination site on the byway,” Haynes said.

The federal allocation should speed negotiations with potential land sellers, he said.

Other Maine byways earmarked for federal funding include the Schoodic Scenic Byway on the Schoodic Peninsula, the Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway, and a scenic byway through Grafton Notch near the New Hampshire state line.

U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud said the funding will help conserve natural areas, ensure access to lakes and forests, and preserve historic sites.

AP-ES-04-19-03 1313EDT

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