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Multiple efforts ongoing to save Black Mountain
Henry LeDuc holds a small cardboard display of photos with the words "We Love Black" as his mother, Jennifer, spoke about what the ski area has meant to their family. Following her statement, Henry donated four dollars and change, which was matched by his sisters. Thursday's meeting was a fundraising and strategy meeting to save Black Mountain of Maine. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD -- Following an energized rally Thursday at the ski lodge in which 120 people brainstormed for fundraising ideas to save Black Mountain of Maine, 93-year-old Wendall "Chummy" Broomhall summed up his feelings about this effort.
"This is all for the kids," noted Broomhall, a two-time Nordic Olympic champion and a founding member who remains an active member of the Chisholm Ski Club.
Last Wednesday, the owner of Black Mountain ski area closed the alpine trails in the midst of a funding crisis that left the facility $51,000 short. On June 11, Rumford voters, by a vote of 497-939, an initiated article that requested $51,000 to fund Black Mountain as a recreational resource.
Whether that decision also includes the Nordic trails had yet to be decided, said Andy Shepard, Maine Winter Sports Center president and chief executive officer.
At Thursday's rally, Roger Arsenault, president of Black Mountain of Maine's board of directors, said that there is funding to maintain the employees at the mountain for the next 30 days. During that time, he said Shepard is hopeful they can lure another non-profit ownership group.
"There needs to be fundraising that's fast and powerful to show our worthiness," said Arsenault to supporters.
The two-hour session began with six-year-old Henry LeDuc holding a small cardboard display of photos with the words "We Love Black" as his mother, Jennifer, spoke about what the ski area has meant to their family.
Following her statement, they asked the mountain's manager, Jim Carter, to approach. Henry then opened a wallet and donated four dollars and change, which was matched by his sisters. Jennifer was overcome with emotion by the gesture.
Three online fundraising efforts are underway.
On Wednesday, Brian and Malinda Gagnon, who skied for high school teams at Black Mountain in the 1990s, launched the "Friends of Black Mountain of Maine Fund" at www.crowdrise.com/bmom. "Crowdrise" is an online fundraising platform.
Brian, CEO of Boston-based BMG Partners, said his business "adopted" the ski area as its featured charity. By Tuesday morning, the Crowdrise site had collected $7,580 of the fund's goal of $55,000 in donations.
"Black Mountain has been an important part of my family for the past 33 years, and now the next generation is on skis enjoying the family experience it brings. The town of Rumford may not see how beneficial Black Mountain is, but I feel that others will step up for this worthy cause," he said.
Also on Wednesday, Shepard created another fundraising effort, the Black Mountain of Maine Fund at www.gofundme.com/3eyo8c using the Internet fundraising platform "gofundme.com."
Shepard's site has a $100,000 goal. By Tuesday morning, it had raised $13,575.
At the strategy meeting, Rumford businessman and Selectman Brad Adley and Diane Perry, Rumford branch manager and overall vice president of Franklin Savings Bank, told the crowd that Franklin Savings Bank is working out details to provide matching funds to any money raised through donations to save the Rumford ski area.
On Monday, Paige Carter of Black Mountain of Maine marketing, announced the details.
Franklin Savings Bank will match local donations up to the amount of $10,000. An account named “Friends of Black Mountain” has been set up at the local Franklin Savings Bank, all donations made to this account will count towards the matching donation.
Perry said donations can be mailed directly to any of the eight Franklin Savings Bank branches.
Franklin Savings Bank has also announced that Sunday River Ski Area in Bethel has committed to an addition $5,000 match.
Black Mountain is a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
All donations can be mailed directly to Franklin Savings Bank. Checks can be made payable to Friends of Black Mountain. Please ensure your name, mailing address and phone number is also on the check. Mail to: Black Mountain of Maine – Friends of Black Mountain c/o Franklin Savings Bank, P.O. Box 579, Rumford, ME 04276.
There are more fundraisers in the works.
Arsenault said Oakdale has offered to hold a golf tournament fundraiser, and there's talk about doing a triathalon.
On Sunday, the Times received an email from 14-year-old Curtis Gauvin, who said he, along with Avery and Rylee Sevigny, love skiing.
"We are trying to help save Black Mtn. of Maine. We are organizing a 5K in Rumford," said Curtis, adding they are planning on holding the event at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 10 at the Hosmer Field track.
Dick and Jolene Lovejoy each donated $1,000. A Rockland man offered to donate the proceeds of a rental property he owns.
Arsenault noted, “All donations will be held in an escrow account and should the mountain not open, all donations will be returned, but remaining closed is really not an option.”
Providing some background information to the audience, Arsenault said, "The MWSC has owned this mountain for 10 years now and they've invested more than $9 million in this facility as a gift to the community and all they asked in return was support from the community."
Arsenault said the ski area, which cost $650,000 to run last year, had an annual loss of $195,000, which the Maine Winter Sports Center quietly funded as it invested in capital improvements. Now, the economy has caught up to the center, which operates solely on grants from the Libra Foundation.
"This year, everything was looking very good," Arsenault said. "We went from $200,000-plus to about a $180,000 loss, which had to do with some of the expansion at the mountain and cost overruns."
He said this year, Black Mountain was going to project an $85,000 loss, and then two years from today, move into profitability.
But uncertainty hit Maine with state revenue-sharing threatened and the Rumford paper mill's survivability in question, and the need to reduce taxes to help.
"And we lost the community support and community partnership, so that was pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back," said Arsenault.
That sent Black Mountain into the red by more than $130,000 this year, counting the projected $85,000 loss.
Arsenault said MWSC has decided to cease operations at all of its alpine facilities, which means it's closing Big Rock and Black Mountain.
He said that because Black Mountain cannot be run by a for-profit business because of its past arrangements, Shepard has 30 days to find a nonprofit to take over its operations. During that time, he's made money available to help the ski area's employees.
Rumford resident Len Greaney asked whether Black Mountain could remain open if $150,000 were raised.
"We budgeted to have an $85,000 loss, so if we raised $150,000, we could run the business as a nonprofit ourselves. But, if the weather goes south and we have a $200,000 loss, we're done," said Arsenault.
"Closing is not an option. We've got to do something to save this mountain for this community," he added.
Black Mountain has been a fixture in cross-country ski racing for generations, since it substituted for Lake Placid as host of the world championships in 1950. The site has rolled out the red carpet for national, collegiate and Junior Olympic events regularly since the early 1990s.
To lose the site permanently would have a crippling effect on the college and the many high schools that call it home.
In addition to the annual Bates Carnival, Black Mountain hosts the KVAC and MVC championships, the large Jon Sassi Memorial meet and at least one of the Maine Principals' Association state championship events each winter.
The MPA hosted its entire Class B state meet as well as the Class A Nordic championships at Black Mountain in a partnership with Mount Abram of Locke Mills in February.