USDA awards groomer grants

Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:16 PM EST
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Three County snowmobile clubs have acquired new groomers, to help support the tourism economy in Aroostook County, thanks to grants from USDA. Kathy McCarty has more.

Promoting outdoor winter recreation is much easier to do, with well-maintained snowmobile trails. Thanks to the USDA’s Rural Business Development Grant program, three County communities can now purchase new groomers. Recipients include the Portage Lakers Sno-Mobile Club, $65,000; the town of St. Agatha, $98,463; and the town of Fort Kent, $99,900.

“The economy of - of the snowmobile industry in this state is about $600 million dollars. They just - the - the group just did - the Maine Snowmobile Association just had a study done and that’s the latest numbers in. And - and that - those dollars - I mean, you can see it. I mean, drive around Aroostook County on a - on a snowy weekend and see how many out-of-state plates are here, with people staying at our hotels and eating in restaurants,” says Tim Hobbs, State Director for USDA Rural Development in Maine.

Tourism is a major economic driver for the region, with snowmobiling one of the most popular activities, attracting participants from in and out of state.

“The snowmobile club grooms upwards to 55 miles, and the amount of snow that Fort Kent gets, the groomer gets used quite - quite a lot. So we were able to secure just under $100,000 - $99,900 of a Rural Business Development Grant with USDA,” says Steve Pelletier, Director of Economic and Community Development for Fort Kent.

In addition, Fort Kent secured a little over $40,000 toward the new groomer from the Capital Equipment Program through the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The Fort Kent Snowmobile Association will purchase the machine, and the snowmobile club will lease it from them.

Pelletier says, “Snowmobiling is an economic driver for this - this area, and the groomer, in and of itself, you know, helps support many businesses in town, because it brings in the - the tourists.”

Tim Hobbs says some question spending federal money for recreational purposes, but he says snowmobiling is good for Maine’s economy.

“It’s a big economic driver in the areas where it’s big, which one of those places is Aroostook County, and so we can easily justify doing that,” says Hobbs.

Kathy McCarty, NewsSource 8

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