(The Center Square) – Maine is launching a $50 million program, backed by federal pandemic relief funds, to upgrade amenities at state parks and recreational areas.
The plan, unveiled this week by the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, calls for repairing restrooms and shower facilities, expanding Wi-Fi, renovating visitor centers and overnight shelters as well as structural upgrades such as repairing bridges and roadways in and around the parklands.
The money will also be devoted to upgrading boat launches, playgrounds, historic sites and septic system parks and sites around the state, according to the agency.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said the infusion of funds will pay for "important and long-neglected work" to rebuild the park system and provide more recreational opportunities for residents.
"Our state parks are treasures that belong in perpetuity to the people of Maine for the enjoyment and benefit of the people of Maine," Mills said in a statement.
The spending is the latest round of pandemic-related disbursements from Mills' $1 billion Maine Jobs & Recovery plan, which is backed with federal relief money.
All told, Maine got more than $4.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act, including money for businesses, direct payments to residents and funding for local governments.
Maine’s 48 parks and historic sites welcomed more than 3.3 million visitors last year, generating more than $100 million in revenue for the state's economy, according to the Mills administration.
The Mills administration says it's been more than 15 years since there has been major investments in the state's parklands, which has forced park managers to defer much-needed maintenance on roads, trail systems and other infrastructure.
Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands, said Maine's parks support the state's estimated $3 billion outdoor economy by generating visitors who spend money locally and help create jobs in the industry.
"This funding will support trails, campsites, and other infrastructure, further improving a system of parks that already attracts millions of people each year," she said.