New Rumford Community Forest blends outdoor recreation and natural assets within minutes of town, benefiting locals and visitors

A new 446-acre Community Forest within five minutes of downtown Rumford has been permanently protected as of February 27, 2024.

Secured in partnership by Trust for Public Land, the Town of Rumford, Inland Woods + Trails, and the Northern Forest Center, with funding from the State of Maine’s Land for Maine’s Future and the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program, the project stemmed from the community’s desire to boost its economic vitality, strengthen their outdoor recreation assets, and protect a valuable tract of natural land close to town.

“While Western Maine is home to mountains, lakes, rivers, and hundreds of miles of trails, it’s actually fairly rare for those communities to have close-to-town public access to the outdoors,” said Betsy Cook, Maine state director for Trust for Public Land. “The Rumford Community Forest will be more than a protected natural area – it will be an economic development tool that will help the community broaden its economic base by attracting tourism, remote workers, young families, and new businesses.”

Centered between the downtown area, the nearby Black Mountain ski area, and Rumford Whitecap Mountain owned by the Mahoosuc Land Trust, the vibrant natural setting of the Rumford Community Forest includes 437 acres of hardwood and mixed-wood forest and 22 acres of wetlands and streams. Combined, this supports a broad array of wildlife, maintains the water quality of nearby public wells, and absorbs floodwater to help minimize local flooding, an increasingly significant issue throughout the region.

With plans for two new parking areas close to town and connections to regional trail networks — including the Black Mountain trail network, Pennacook Area Community Trails at Mountain Valley High School— the land also will be maintained and improved for a wide variety of outdoor recreation uses including hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing, and motorized uses on designated trails.

The project marks a significant change in course, conserving land that was formerly permitted for 257 residential and condominium lots. This intense and infrastructure-heavy development of a high value rural area would have significantly impacted the adjoining Black Mountain viewshed, local water supplies, wildlife habitat, and would have intensified future flood events in Rumford and Mexico.

Voices of community support for the project include:

  • “The Town of Rumford is thrilled at the creation of this new outdoor recreation facility for our
    community. The entire community looks forward to enjoying the Rumford Community Forest for
    generations to come. We are deeply grateful to all of the individuals and organizations who have
    pulled together to make a tremendous gift to the community that will have a long lasting
    and very positive impact,” said George O’Keefe, Rumford Economic Development Director.
  • “Thoughtful development and investment in beautiful historic downtowns like Rumford, paired
    with land conservation and active outdoor recreation is what people want, and this is happening
    in Rumford. It’s a great community deserving of high quality outcomes,” said Kara Wilbur, interim
  • “The Rumford Community Forest is the result of our organization’s commitment to Rumford over
    the last five years in listening, developing relationships with the community, building fun trails in
    Rumford Point and behind Mountain Valley High School while being ready when unique
    opportunities like this emerge. It’s an honor for us to do this work with the Rumford community,
    work that is built on trust and enthusiasm for the betterment of Rumford,” said Gabe Perkins,
    Executive Director of Inland Woods + Trails.
  • “Rumford has a strong history in the forest products industry, but the Rumford Community
    Forest project reflects a new relationship where the townspeople will enjoy and care for a parcel
    of land as part of a wider vision of diversified community development based upon its natural
    infrastructure and landscape. We enjoyed facilitating the planning process,” said Julie Renaud
    Evans, Program Director with the Northern Forest Center.

Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center are national leaders in the growing community forest movement, which they revived in New England 20 years ago to reflect the region’s town forest history and has since spread across the United States. Inland Woods + Trails has brought this opportunity to small towns in western Maine providing the critical capacity in land acquisition and management for community benefit.

Community Forests provide economic, ecological, and social benefits to local communities, and management decisions reflect both the culture of the community and the site conditions of the forest. Community engagement in planning and management is an important part of these projects; local input and control is just as important as the conservation values protected.

The Rumford Community Forest will be owned and overseen by Inland Woods + Trails. Management will be guided by the public and the Town of Rumford through a Community Forest Committee, building on a year-long community forest planning process which included monthly public meetings and the assessments of land experts including a trail specialist, an ecologist, and a forester.

To date, $1.1 Million has been raised to support the Rumford Community Forest. The U.S. Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program and the State of Maine Land for Maine’s Future Program (LMF) each provided grants of $345,000 to fund the property purchase, and the balance of the funds have been raised by Project Partners.

Project partners are still working to raise the last $200,000 to support project costs, initial trail improvements, and long-term land stewardship and maintenance. Closing the remaining funding gap is critical to activating the land and developing and building out the trail system. Gifts can be made by contacting Ally McDougal at Trust for Public Land,

About Trust for Public Land: Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, Trust for Public Land works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most, including sites that reconnect Indigenous and Tribal communities to their ancestral lands and outdoor spaces that honor Black history and culture. Since 1972, Trust for Public Land has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit

About Inland Woods + Trails: Based in Bethel, Maine and founded in 2011, Inland Woods + Trails has conserved nearly 2,000 acres of community forests, and is dedicated to creating permanent protection for recreational trail corridors for economic growth and prosperity by connecting communities through the development, maintenance, and promotion of a multi-use recreational trail network.

About Northern Forest Center: The Northern Forest Center is a regional innovation and investment partner, creating rural vibrancy by connecting people, economy, and the forested landscape. The Center invests in people and communities to secure regional prosperity and a resilient landscape.