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Skowhegan-based foundation agrees to long term lease of Eaton Mountain Ski Area as part of educational program

The foundation will work with local students to transform the mountain into a four season recreation destination.

SKOWHEGAN, Maine — A Skowhegan-based foundation is contracting with a group of students from Community Regional Charter School (CRCS) to transform Eaton Mountain into a four season recreation destination area.

The Eaton Mountain Foundation, non-profit pending approval of 501(c3) status, has entered into a long term lease with the owner of Eaton Mountain to operate and manage the mountain located in Skowhegan with a public/private partnership.

CRCS is a free public charter school system serving more than 360 students from over 20 towns in the Central Maine area grades PreK - 12. Any child that lives in Maine can enroll as long as there is an opening for that age level.

According to CRCS , its multiyear systemic community outreach program has 4 steps:

  1. Students will identify a problem in the community that impacts a minimum of 3-5 community organizations, businesses, and/or groups.
  2. Students will develop a sustainable business plan for 5, 10, and 15 years.
  3. Students will identify potential sources of funding and pitch the solution to local, state, and/or federal audience members
  4. Students will turn over the findings and/or being the execution of the plan (in this case, to the Eaton Mountain Foundation)

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When 165 students return to school at Overman Academy on Monday, August 24, they will start the process of recruiting students that are invested in the project. The students will be the first group to participate in an outdoor recreation business management program that will focus on all aspects of running a four season recreational facility.

During the 2020-2021 season, the school says students will be developing a business plan, aggressively seeking grants for a new chair lift, and creating a four season recreational plan to be completed in phases. 

Students working on the Eaton Mountain project will also research and visit local ski mountains and other recreational facilities throughout the year in order to build background knowledge and a deeper understanding of a working ski mountain. They will also assist and participate in developing an advisory council made up of like-minded community members with a passion and dedication to transforming Eaton Mountain.

"Over the last five years I have been seeking the right partner to develop Eaton Mountain Ski Area. I am extremely excited to be partnering with the Eaton Mountain Foundation and the Community Regional Charter School to operate and develop the ski area," David Beers, president and owner of Eaton Mountain, said. "I can't imagine a more ideal partner to have. Although it’s easy to see the untapped potential at Eaton Mountain, operating a ski area is an unusual and difficult business. This group has the energy, access to resources, community presence, ski industry contacts and relevant ski industry experience that will be necessary to bring Eaton Mountain to its full potential in a solid and realistic manner."

The COVID-19 pandemic will cause Eaton Mountain Snow Tubing and Beginner Ski Slope to remain closed for the 2020-2021 winter season, but will reopen for the winter in 2021-2022. The Eaton Mountain Foundation has secured a seasoned ski mountain manager to run the operations while working with students starting July 2021.

According to CRCS, there are currently openings due to expansion in enrollment.

CRCS added the following in its press release Tuesday:

The Eaton Mountain Foundation’s Educational and Economical purpose is to create collaboration and development of what is currently an underutilized, but valuable resource supporting the educational development of Skowhegan youth. The site, when fully implemented as a result of this collaboration, will provide experienced based learning opportunities, and affordable recreational activities for youth and their families living in an economically challenged environment. There will be a third measurable economic benefit of supporting the area's small businesses as they provide mentoring and apprenticeship opportunities along with services and products to the project.

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