GUILFORD, Maine — Guilford has long been a pass-through community to the Moosehead Lake region, but if a small group of residents has its way, the town will actually be a destination.
The Guilford Economic Development Board has a long-range goal of blanketing the town with colorful and fragrant lilac trees. Each year, starting this spring, the board plans to have 60 lilac trees planted in the local parks and in public places. The board envisions the eventual publication of pamphlets that not only will tell visitors where to look for the lilacs but also will give information about the various species, as well as articles in magazines.
With that in mind, at the behest of the board and town officials, state Sen. Douglas Smith, R-Dover-Foxcroft, and state Rep. Peter Johnson, R-Greenville, have submitted a bill to name Guilford the Lilac Capital of Maine, according to Carrie Fellows, board chairman. In anticipation of that designation, the board has developed the Web site lilaccapitalofmaine.com.
“The whole idea is of economic development, to bring people to town,” Fellows said Friday. “It’s part of a larger branding program, a marketing program, to put Guilford on the map a little bit, give people a reason to stop here.
“I can envision, at some point, mapping out a tour that people could take to see all the different locations,” Fellows said.
Another part of the board’s “branding” effort, which is included in the bill now being worked, is to have Guilford designated as the Chickadee Capital of Maine.
“We feel like chickadees and lilac trees go hand in hand,” Fellows said. The board’s initial idea is to make a project similar to Belfast’s Bearfest display. The idea, she said, would be to get local artists and high school students involved in an artistic interpretation of the chickadee and have the interpretations displayed in town.
Both projects are ambitious for the six-member board made up of volunteers, but Fellows said the group is eager to make the project a success.
The lilac project is a fundraising effort, as well as a donation project, Fellows said. A person can purchase a lilac tree for $25 and donate it to the town in the name of a loved one, or residents can purchase the trees for planting on their properties.
“It’s just a nice way to not only contribute to the town, but honor somebody who’s passed or a holiday or a birth, something like that,” Fellows said.
For those trees purchased in memory of loved ones, Fellows said a service would be held to recognize the individuals when the trees have been planted. A local landscaper has volunteered to plant the lilac trees this year, she said.
After the first year, Fellows said the board hopes to hold a festival when the blossoms are in full bloom each year.
“This is a project that will phase in over years, but we have general ideas in place and then those will become more formal over time,” Fellows said.