OXFORD — Black Bear Entertainment has begun site work for the planned casino on Pigeon Hill after receiving approval from the Army Corps of Engineers.

Scott Smith, community development director for Black Bear, said foresters Thomas Richards & Sons of Paris have begun logging the 100-acre property beside Route 26.

Consultant Sherman Small of Bethel is helping to direct the work, Smith said. Black Bear is still awaiting approval from the Maine Department of Transportation to begin roadside work.

“This is the first, initial phase of our whole project, and it feels good,” Smith said Tuesday.

Black Bear has received approval from the town of Oxford and from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The Androscoggin River Association has complained to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about a potential conflict of interest with the DEP permit, as DEP Commissioner Darryl Brown owns Main-Land Development, the company Black Bear hired for site planning.

Smith said the cutting is expected to last the next four weeks. As part of the deal with former landowner Evan Thurlow, all timber cut to make room for the casino will be Thurlow’s property, Smith said.

The goal is to open the resort casino by the first quarter of 2012, Smith said. Over the next year, Black Bear plans to complete the first phase of the project, which will include a 65,000-square-foot building with slot machines, gaming tables and a restaurant.

He said cutting would be “very limited and very specific” to the area where the developers plan to build the casino. “We love trees, of course.”

Smith said it was important to Black Bear to hire local foresters for the work. “It’s local people, local jobs.”

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