FARMINGTON — The trails and historical sites of greater Franklin County will be explored, mapped and put up on a Web site with the help of a Maine Community Foundation grant.

Healthy Community Coalition has received a $75,000 grant from the foundation’s Environmental Funders Network “Quality of Place” Fund for a project that focuses on health and the local natural environment. It’s a three-year grant, and as long as funding is available, HCC will receive $75,000 each year, Executive Director Heather Davis said.

HCC will work on the project with Bruce Engle from the Center for GIS and Bruce Hazard with the Maine Mountain Heritage Network. They will include teams of middle to high school students and interested adults to document more information about local sites and trails.

“The project will allow us to develop and market the quality of place we call Greater Franklin County by exposing both youth and adults to the region’s natural resources, revealing our cultural heritage and promoting physical activity,” Davis said.

A Web site will be developed during this first year where multiple users such as bikers, bird watchers, visitors or schoolteachers can access information collected, said Nate Morse of HCC.

“Many of the trails and historical sites have very basic-level information,” Morse said. “Our teams will enhance the information by visiting the site, creating a video and posting its attributes, such as plants, birds or animals or what appeals.”

Starting this fall, older local residents will be contacted to help identify sites, then decisions will be made on which sites to visit, map and record.
For instance, a trail runs next to an old railroad trestle on the South Strong Road. The granite is still there, as is the history of the Narrow Gauge Railroad. This is one of the natural and historical sites that have fallen out of our view, he said.

The three entities have been working on their own pieces since 2006, but with this grant they will now be able to create a master database to house the information. The proposed site will be similar to a Web site from Vermont, www.localmotion.org, except it will include video, he said.

The benefits for the youth involved are also multiple: Training in mapping and GIS/GPS technology and how to organize information, along with the physical exercise of visiting these sites, is the icing on the cake, Morse said. Three teams of 15 students will be developed from schools in northern, central and southern Franklin County. The teams will be assisted by University of Maine at Farmington geography and education students.

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