New project in Millinocket aims to improve access to outdoor recreation

MILLINOCKET, Maine (WABI) - There's a new program in Millinocket designed to improve access to outdoor recreation in the Katahdin region.

"Outdoor recreation is a big part of the revitalization of this region, and so the library sees that, and we want to see how within our mission we can support those initiatives."

Starting with the Katahdin Gear Hub.

"The Katahdin Gear Hub is a gear branch of the Millinocket Memorial Library and we do three things. First we lend out bicycles for library holders just like we would lend out books. Two, we have a work space where we teach classes and allow people to work on their own bicycles, and three, we do a number of educational and outreach programs and events."

Matt DeLaney also serves as Director for the Millinocket Memorial Library. He says he saw a need in town.

"We saw more people bicycling. We saw trail development happening around the New England Outdoor Center, but we saw a lack of bicycle infrastructure. So, we thought, what if we could get bicycles in the hands of people that want to try this sport out," said DeLaney.

The Katahdin Gear Hub is an outreach program of the library in partnership with the Outdoor Sport Institute and the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

DeLaney says he's not sure where the Hub will take him or the town, but he's hopeful it will change the bicycle culture within the region.

"If we are successful in getting more people riding bikes, hopefully we will establish some sort of demand where someone says, you know what, I want to own my own bike shop, and at that point, we are happy to step away and maybe we will still run classes. But right now, it seems to me that the need is lets get people out there on trails, and how do we do that? We lend them the bikes. We show them how to use them safely, and we give them space to work on their bike. And, really we are creating a network of like-minded individuals," explained DeLaney.

The Gear Hub is open three days a week with an all volunteer staff available to provide safety training and information.

DeLaney says he hopes the initiative catches on with the community and even other businesses in town.

"It feels great to know that there are a lot of people that are trying to make this community stronger and resilient, and a fun and exciting place to live, work, and play," said DeLaney.