By LIZ GOTTHELF Staff Writer | Pub. 10/8 in

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — About 50 local sixth-graders hit the trails Friday morning at the grand opening of Milliken Mills Trails Park.

Fall colors peaked out through the changing foliage of the woods on the beautiful autumn day, and the students trekked through the well-designated trails, stopping to read information about the area posted on signs and kiosks.

About a third of those students had a hand in creating the park while in fourth grade through a partnership with the town’s Conservation Commission.

Milliken Mills Trails Park encompasses 70 acres of wooded area on Portland Avenue, and connects with the Eastern Trail. In 1999, Janice Milliken Andrews donated 53 acres to the town to be used for a conservation area, and the town acquired the additional 17 acres from a failed subdivision.

Parking is available at 192 Portland Ave., where the town’s former animal shelter was located.

The project was funded with the help of an $8,000 Project Canopy grant, awarded in 2014. Project Canopy is a partnership between the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s Maine Forest Service and GrowSmart Maine.

As part of a fourth-grade project, local students researched the history and habitat of the area, and compiled information for signs, kiosks and the website Then, with the help of high school students, they designed and built signs, kiosks and picnic tables, said Conservation Commission member Kimbark Smith.

“It is our hope this will become a new cornerstone of the community,” he said.

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