RUMFORD – Judy O’Neil believes trees are not just part of the history of the town, but also an important part of its future.

O’Neil, Parks Department supervisor Tim Gallant and Terri Palmer attended a training session last week on the Project Canopy grant program as a step toward applying for funds.

If approved by the state Department of Conservation, the money would come in two phases.

The first would be planting and maintenance in the front of the Municipal Building; the second, long-range planning and education.

Both grant applications must be submitted by March 28. The town would learn if it was successful on April 27, and work could begin May 1.

The first grant may be for as much as $8,000l the long-range grant for up to $10,000. Both require a 50 percent match, either in money or in-kind work.

Gallant said the informal committee wants input from people on what they’d like to see planted or landscaped in front of the Municipal Building.

They may visit the Municipal Building between March 4 and 6 to look at some ideas and provide some of their own.

Selectmen approved applying for the grants last week. At the March 6 meeting, they will act on a final plan for landscaping the front of the Municipal Building.

O’Neil said once either or both grants are received, plans are to form a community forestry committee to oversee a tree inventory, maintenance plan, and anything else needed in relation to the town’s trees.

Part of the grant would provide a forester to help with planning and the software to aid in training volunteers to take care of projects involving trees.

“If we get involved in Project Canopy, we can give the right advice (regarding trees) without bringing in a consultant,” Gallant said.

That would tie it to saving money, O’Neil said.

If Rumford gets part of the $250,000 available through the state, it would join neighboring towns that have taken advantage of the program, such as Norway and Newry. The University of Maine at Farmington received a grant in 2005 to conduct an inventory and planting program, according to information provided by Project Canopy.

Selectmen’s Chairman Greg Buccina said the plan is a great initiative and good for the town.

The informal committee, and likely the soon-to-be-formed community forestry panel, is partnering with the Downtown Revitalization Committee, which is focused on making improvements to boost the economy.

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