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February 03. 2013 8:12PM

TCCAP looks to divest interest in Northern Forest Heritage Park

BERLIN - The Tri-County Community Action Program is looking to divest its interest in the Northern Forest Heritage Park, and recently announced that it is in discussions with public officials, lenders and private funders as it seeks to find a "more suitable entity to own and/or operate it." The park does not fit its core mission and is not an economic plus, the program says.

According to the release, "TCCAP has many reservations planned for the park, expects to honor those reservations on terms previously agreed upon, and to make the transition seamless for those who have scheduled events there in the upcoming months or who enjoy this community resource."

Every fall, some of the Northeast's best lumberjacks stop for a day at Northern Forest Heritage Park to test their skills in competition.

The festival takes place at the park's recreation logging camp on the banks of the Androscoggin River, and includes food, fun, and boat tours up and down the river. It's not the only annual event at the camp, and not even the most popular. That honor goes to RiverFire/HorrorFest, which brings out the community with its music, ghouls, bouncy houses, food vendors and bonfires on the river's piers.

Organizing those events, lining up sponsors, and maintaining the buildings and grounds takes money and manpower, and for several years now that manpower has been supplied by TCCAP. Though events at the park are growing in attendance, when all costs are added and subtracted, TCCAP is losing money on the park.

The Northern Forest Heritage Park Trust hired its first director in 1995. The logging camp opened in 2002, a project that was aligned with the park's dedication to the history of the working forest and the multicultural heritage of northern forest. Previously a standalone nonprofit with a board of trustees, the park's management was taken over by TCCAP in 2007.

At the Berlin City Council's Jan. 28 work session, Councilor Diana Nelson reported that representatives of TCCAP had met with Brookfield, Berlin, Northway Bank and the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce. They discussed the possible role of those entities in the future of the park. She said the group did not think it had enough information to move forward.

The nonprofit is also looking to fill the vacant chief financial officer position. TCCAP has had a special trustee overseeing it since mid-December, and is continuing to review programs and restructure in order to get control over its finances.

On Wednesday TCCAP will hold a news conference at its offices in Berlin at 30 Exchange Street.

syoungknox@newstote.com


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