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In Presque Isle, Governor Mills & Aroostook County Municipal Officials Discuss MaineDOT Initiative to Revitalize Downtowns

Madawaska, Fort Kent, Van Buren, and Presque Isle are set to begin planning phase of MaineDOT’s Village Partnership Initiative this fall

Presque Isle, MAINE – Governor Janet Mills today convened a meeting with municipal officials from Madawaska, Van Buren, Fort Kent, and Presque Isle to discuss the Maine Department of Transportation’s Village Partnership Initiative (VPI).

Through the initiative, MaineDOT works in partnership with local officials to revitalize iconic village centers, promoting walkable, bicycle-friendly, and business-friendly features that help promote a sense of community and economic opportunity.

Governor Mills Discusses Initiative

The Governor spoke with Gary Picard of Madawaska; Luke Dyer of Van Buren; Suzie Paradis of Fort Kent; Martin Puckett, Galen Weibley, and Dana Fowler of Presque Isle; and Jay Kamm of the Northern Maine Development Commission at The Northeastland Hotel in Presque Isle.

“Downtowns are the places that make Maine special. They are where you run errands, go shopping, and bump into friends,” said Governor Mills. “And the County has beautiful downtown spaces with so much opportunity for residents, businesses, and tourists. Through the Village Partnership Initiative, towns like Madawaska, Van Buren, Fort Kent, and Presque Isle are partnering with my Administration to further enrich their downtowns – and we look forward to seeing the results in the years to come.”

“The goal of our Village Partnership Initiative is to make smart, targeted investments in the places where people walk, bike, shop, and do business,” said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation. “It’s exciting to see some of these projects begin to take shape with this support from our partners at the municipal level.”

The municipal leaders expressed enthusiasm about the initiative. Madawaska, Fort Kent, Van Buren, and Presque Isle – all located along U.S. Route 1 – are slated to start the planning phases of new projects through the initiative in the fall.

The goal of the planning phases is to provide planning and design to a village area, making it walkable, bicycle-friendly, and business-friendly while adding to its cultural and economic value. Through these efforts, the communities will partner with MaineDOT and work with a multidisciplinary team of engineers, designers, and planners to provide collaborative solutions for transformative plans that can later be implemented under a future federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law grant or other special funding. 

An Acadian border town, Madawaska shares strong cultural and economic ties with Edmundston, New Brunswick. Madawaska is home to a bustling paper industry, the Four Corners Park, and the Acadian Cultural Festival of Maine. A new International Bridge and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Facility are scheduled to open in the coming years. Trade and tourism will be further enhanced by Madawaska’s vibrant and historic downtown. Madawaska is the center of Acadian culture in the Saint John Valley, with nearly 85 percent of households speaking French as a first language.

Van Buren, situated on the St. John River, is the one Maine town capable of landing seaplanes north of Dover-Foxcroft. With a historic downtown that sits along Route 1, the municipality has begun investing heavily in bringing back the sense of place and destination development.

Established as a historic outpost during the bloodless Aroostook War between Maine and Canada, the blockhouse fort sits on a prominent historic site in downtown Fort Kent. Fort Kent was long inhabited by Acadian refugees from Nova Scotia fleeing the British and is also home to the University of Maine Fort Kent, which houses the Acadian Archives of Maine. The town boasts a vibrant downtown, a border crossing with New Brunswick, and the four-season Outdoor Center. It is home to mountain biking, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing trails, and the northernmost alpine ski hill in New England – Lonesome Pines.

Presque Isle – “The Hub of Aroostook County” – is home to the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Presque Isle International Airport, and a variety of cultural and economic opportunities that draw visitors from the region and beyond. The historic downtown is the center of activity and shopping. As climate change impacts winter snowfall amounts, Presque Isle is well positioned to be the center of snowmobiling and cross-country skiing along with fun activities in the other three seasons.