Katahdin Communities Celebrate Making Headway



The Katahdin Region is seeing much change, as residents actively seek out new opportunities for dormant paper mill properties and the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument completes its first year within the National Park Service. GrowSmart Maine worked with community members from Medway, Millinocket and East Millinocket on a short-term project “Making Headway in the Katahdin Region” to begin to envision what’s next for the region, and create tangible projects that set the stage for the work ahead.

On Sunday August 20th members of the Katahdin region community joined friends and neighbors to celebrate the community projects generated through the Making Headway in Your Community program this spring and summer at the conclusion of the second annual Penobscot River Festival in Medway. The celebration included appearances by project leaders who reported out on progress, shared successes, and offered thanks to those who helped them along the way. Each of these projects, in their own way, are moving the Katahdin region forward and bringing communities and community members together.

At 2pm attendees were rewarded with ice cream and asked to think about ‘What’s next for the Katahdin Region?’ A flip chart was provided where people could add their thoughts and ideas or show support for the ideas of others. Tyler Kidder, Community Outreach Director, welcomed the gathered crowd and invited project leaders to the microphone on the stage for exciting progress updates and ways for community members to stay engaged.

‘GrowSmart Maine has been working with our local partner, Lucy Van Hook of Our Katahdin, to inspire and empower citizens to execute projects that bring the region together. It is a delight to see these efforts yield emblematic, tangible results after months of work and an honor to take part in celebrating these local and regional leaders. I’m optimistic that this momentum can lead to lasting positive change for the region and its people.’ said Tyler Kidder.

Organizers of the Penobscot River Fest, one of the projects supported through the program, thanked everyone for attending their weekend-long family friendly festival. Despite cloudy days and a few rain storms, attendance was higher than last year and there were fun events running from Friday morning through Sunday afternoon. Diverse food vendors provided sustenance to the festival-goers, a costumed fairy lead fairy trail tours through the adjacent woods, pets competed for best dressed and best trick, and local crafters sold their wares.

Wende Sairio, director of the Katahdin Regional Chamber of Commerce, presented a large format version of her soon-to-be-printed regional map which will be available for visitors. Sairio identified a need for a comprehensive map that included seasonal attractions, outdoor activities, businesses and services, as well as trails, state parks, and the national monument. As an added bonus, the map includes blow-up maps of the region’s towns and cities to provide additional information and encourage visitors to visit the historic downtowns.

An update on a school backpack project was provided by project leader Jada Kimball, a junior at Schenck High School. Fundraising for the project was done by Jada and through crowd funding on Our Katahdin’s platform. Backpacks will be available to local students who may be about to start the school year without a backpack, school supplies, or personal care items. So far there are 30 students registered for backpacks but up to 100 are ready to be given out the first week of school. Families can still apply for backpacks through the program and Jada is hoping to scale up in the future to provide all kids with what they need to be successful in school.

Another project has continued full steam ahead: ‘Youth Entrepreneurship: Owning Your Future’.
The project has created and piloted a program aimed at nurturing youth entrepreneurs in high school at Stearns, Schenck and Katahdin High. The experiential program hopes to cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen at an early age, and connect local communities through learning, inspiration and innovation. It includes a 40 minute classroom presentation and is ready to be rolled out in area high schools this fall. The Katahdin Region, like many in Maine, is looking for creative ways to engage students and encourage them to stay in the region after graduation.

Stay in touch with these people and projects on Facebook @Making Headway in the Katahdin Region

Matt Delaney, Library Director at the Millinocket Memorial Library, presented on the Katahdin Story Booth Project which is a community initiative to record and share the personal stories of the people that have lived, worked, and shaped the Katahdin Region we know today. Dalaney played a newly edited compilation of recordings from local people which were touching and thoughtful. More recordings will be available soon and will live on the library’s website as the project grows.

Delaney says, ‘Through sound recordings, we invite people to tell their stories to each other, helping preserve our past as we prepare for the future. It is both the ordinary and the extraordinary stories that connect people and strengthen communities through the simple process of storytelling.’

The Katahdin Story Booth Project is a mobile listening and recording experience that provides an opportunity to identify common themes crossing generations, political boundaries, and town borders to strengthen the regional community. In addition, collected stories identify people’s relationship to the land around them. These goals fit well with Making Headway’s overall theme of honoring the past while preparing for the future.

‘The Katahdin Story Booth Project has worked with over 25 storytellers so far, and we look forward to bringing in many more. We plan to expand the reach of our project by lending out “Story Kits” so people can conduct their own Living History projects with their friends and family. We also look forward to partnering with students and other organizations to help us edit our material to make the project even more accessible for listeners.’ says Delaney.

The Katahdin Story Booth Project was made possible through the generous support of numerous community partners including Maine Folklife Center, National Park Service, GrowSmart Maine: Making Headway in Your Community, designlab, and East Millinocket Public Library.

Deb Rountree and State Representative Steve Stanley, both active members of Katahdin Revitalization, closed out the celebration by announcing the next speaker series, thanking all of the project teams, and sharing inspirational words that describe a challenged but motivated region who is truly Making Headway.

Making Headway in Your Community is a program administered by GrowSmart Maine with local partnership in the Katahdin Region from Our Katahdin. Making Headway empowers communities to identify what they value most and provides tools to protect and build on those assets. Three towns in the Katahdin Region have embarked on Making Headway together in 2017: Medway, East Millinocket, & Millinocket. More than 50 people joined co-sponsors Our Katahdin and Katahdin Revitalization for two public events to build connections, inspire project ideas, gather information, and have a good time. At these gatherings residents highlighted the values they share which include preserving the heritage and culture of the area, supporting and investing in local youth, strengthening ties between generations, and a recognition of the bounty and beauty of surrounding natural resources. At the Community Conversation in March, six diverse projects were presented an all are complete or in progress. The sixth project, not mentioned above, is the Katahdin Art Festival which has been planned for August 2018 in downtown Millinocket.

GrowSmart Maine is a statewide non-profit organization and works to build lasting prosperity without sacrificing the quality of life that defines Maine. To learn more about Making Headway in Your Community program, visit the website: bit.ly/MakingHeadwayinYourCommunity . To learn about what other communities have done, and to connect with statewide resources, visit http://www.makingheadway.me/ 

Follow-Up contact Information

For more information about Making Headway in Your Community, Katahdin Region or GrowSmart Maine contact Tyler Kidder, Community Outreach Director, GrowSmart Maine: tkidder@growsmartmaine.org  or mobile phone: (207) 747-8459

For more information about Jada’s Backpack project contact jadasbackpackprogram@gmail.com or Deb Rountree, Assistant Academic Dean at the Katahdin Regional Higher Ed Center, 207.746.5741

For more information about the Katahdin Story Booth project contact Matt DeLaney, Library Director at the Millinocket Memorial Library, 207-723-7020 or matt@millinocketmemoriallibrary.org.

For Photos, Contact Tyler Kidder.

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