RUMFORD – Deb Burd brought a message of cooperation and collaboration to strengthen the political identity of the western Maine region to the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition board Thursday afternoon.

Burd, executive director of the Western Mountains Alliance, said all groups must work together to create the future of the region.

The WMA is made up of groups and individuals from Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis and northern Androscoggin counties.

The nonprofit organization, formed 16 years ago, aims to provide skills and support to the region, which shares a common topography and economy.

In recent years, the WMA has worked with the River Valley Growth Council to help bring the region together, help bring Maine Public Television to Rumford as part of its “Road Diaries” series and assist with the development of the River Valley Healthy Communities Coalition.

Burd sits on several state boards where she advocates for the western Maine towns.

Based in Farmington, the WMA is trying to visit and work more often with other parts of the region.

Also at the RVHCC meeting, coordinator Patricia Duguay said Deb Barlow has recently been hired to begin an inventory of the walking trails and loops available for residents in each of the organization’s 10 towns.

Barlow’s part-time, temporary position is funded by the Maine Nutrition Network.

By the end of September, a listing of all walking trails will be compiled and printed on maps. They will then be distributed throughout the River Valley.

Once the inventory is completed, and if some towns don’t have adequate walking trails, Duguay said the RVHCC will decide what can be done.

Duguay also said this year’s Summer Day Camp, usually offered at no cost to young elementary children at the Mexico Recreation Center, will be combined with the Black Mountain summer program in Rumford.

A seasonal director for the program will be hired by the end of May.

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