Portland Trails receives $100K, 3-year grant

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PORTLAND — The nonprofit Portland Trails has received its largest grant ever from a Maine foundation, and will use the $100,000 largely for projects aimed at the future.

The grant, from the Portland-based Old Bug Light Foundation, will be administered over three years, with $40,000 granted in the first year and $30,000 in each of the remaining two years.

Kara Wooldrik, executive director of Portland Trails, said the foundation’s approach was to solicit grant proposals from a handful of organizations, and the trustees weighed the proposals before picking one recipient.

This is not the single largest grant Portland Trails has ever received, though. Wooldrik said in the organization’s early days, it received substantial federal money and has also received grants of equal size to this from regional foundations.

“It’s a real honor to receive this from (Old Bug Light) and their vote of confidence is huge,” Wooldrik said.

She said Portland Trails was selected because the foundation “appreciated what we give to community,” that “we’re providing so many miles of trails for people to use for free,” and over the 23 years Portland Trails has existed “we’ve transformed Portland,” all with just four staff members.

“They can see we need to move it to the next level,” she said.

Foundation trustee Chris Moore said Portland Trails was chosen because it provides “a vital economic, social and health benefit to people who live and work in Portland.”

“The land that Portland Trails manages is free to everyone and benefits people of all backgrounds. The organization is well run and respected by people in Portland,” he said via email.

He said splitting the award over three years allows for “the most immediate impact,” while also giving Portland Trails “the opportunity to plan around having a sustainable source of funding.”

The grant will be put toward several things, Wooldrik said, including a new mower to replace the organization’s old machine, which Wooldrik said is often in need of repairs and “covers hundreds of miles each year.”

“Then we’re looking at a start of a website redesign and creating a map app,” she said, each of which will likely take three years to develop. She said the app will allow users to access maps on the go, without the need to carry physical copies.

Wooldrik also said Portland Trails has to “start thinking how we’ll take care of (the trails) forever.”

To do that, the organization will hire a staff member to focus solely on fundraising for a long-term trail maintenance plan.

Finally, about a quarter of the grant will be used for a stewardship endowment. Wooldrik said the plan is to not tap into the endowment for a few years, “so it can continue to grow,” with the goal to have between $2 million and $3 million in the short term, and between $4 million and $5 million in the long term.

“This is a great way to start saving for the long term,” she said.

“If we can get all that for $100,000,” Wooldrik added, “it’s a pretty good deal.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Baxter Woods is one of dozens of trails in the Portland Trails system. Portland Trails recently received a grant for $100,000 from the Old Bug Light Foundation, which will be used, among other things, to create a mobile app for trail users.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.