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Quimby Family Foundation awards $29,000 grant to UMPI’s GIS Laboratory

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Geospatial Information Technology Center has received a grant totaling $29,000 from the Quimby Family Foundation to complete non-motorized trail mapping efforts in the region using GIS and GPS technology. Dr. Chunzeng Wang, director of UMPI’s GIS Laboratory and grant project coordinator, was presented with the grant by Quimby Family Foundation member and Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby during a grant recipient luncheon held at Harraseeket Inn in Freeport on Aug. 26.

The grant will support the on-going project entitled Mapping Non-motorized Trails and Developing the Interactive Website with GPS and GIS Technologies to Promote Outdoor Recreation in Aroostook County. The funding will support the committee’s on-going work to collect data on non-motorized trails in the region and publish that information to the web with advanced GPS, GIS, and web GIS technologies. The grant also will support the committee’s efforts to continue developing its recently-launched website The Committee also plans to use the grant to compile a trail map brochure for the public, to identify trails that need signage, and to install signs by working with trail owners. This work is expected to wrap up by the end of summer 2012.

The non-motorized trail mapping project, initiated two years ago with leadership provided by Rachel Charette of Power of Prevention and Carol Bell of ACAP Healthy Aroostook, has resulted in an Aroostook Non-motorized Trails Committee. Chaired by Michael Smith of the Maine Winter Sport Center’s Healthy Hometown Program, the committee includes several major non-profit organizations in the County, including: Maine Winter Sports Center, ACAP Healthy Aroostook, Power of Prevention, Northern Maine Development Commission, Central Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District, and the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The mission of the committee, and the website it is developing, is to foster healthy, active, non-motorized, outdoor recreational opportunities and promote eco-tourism in Aroostook County, through the sharing of outdoor information and experience.

The GIS Laboratory at UMPI has already collected data for a majority of the non-motorized trails in the region with the help of volunteers from the involved organizations and financial support from an EPSCoR grant (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – a National Science Foundation program) awarded to UMPI earlier this year. Students at the University will be hired as interns to work with the committee, and learn hands-on, real-world applications for GIS and GPS technologies.

“This project is an excellent example of collaboration among several organizations in the County. It’s helping to complete the first county-wide trail mapping project and it’s allowing the committee to develop the first website that provides comprehensive trail and outdoor information about the County to recreationists,” Dr. Wang said. “We believe the project will benefit the County’s economy in terms of tourism while helping promote a healthy lifestyle. We are so pleased that the Quimby Family Foundation saw the value of our project and gave our proposal an uncommon full-funding approval, with favorable votes from all its board members.”

According to the Quimby Family Foundation, it received approximately 300 proposals this year but only 70 of them were awarded. In its approval letter to UMPI, it said, “The University of Maine at Presque Isle was selected to receive funding because your goals and mission most closely align with our foundation’s funding goals. We are truly inspired by the work that you have been doing in the state of Maine.”

The non-motorized trail mapping project is only one of a number of community GIS projects conducted at UMPI’s GIS Laboratory. The laboratory is equipped with the state-of-the-art computers, scanners, printers, GPS units, and software, making it one of the highest quality GIS laboratories in the state of Maine. UMPI’s GIS Laboratory has worked with major organizations and cities and towns in the County to form a community GIS partnership. Each year, the GIS Laboratory provides low-cost or no-cost geospatial information technology training workshops and services to northern Maine communities.