State launches effort to boost woods tourism

Posted June 18, 2009, at 9:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — In many ways, the effort launched at the State House on Thursday to encourage tourism in the Maine woods is going back to the roots of tourism in the state.

“There is a pretty important historical component to this,” said Warren Cook, owner of the Saddleback Mountain Ski Area and one of the organizers of Maine Woods Discovery. “We have realized that working together providing a perspective on history or various recreational tourism kinds of experience will be better than just doing it ourselves.”

Maine Woods Discovery includes a wide range of nonprofit groups and private-sector companies. They have joined in the effort to promote visits to the inland areas of the state first made famous by the essays of Henry David Thoreau in the mid-1800s and later by the writings of Theodore Roosevelt.

“I still remember with qualified joy the ascent and especially the descent of Katahdin in moccasins, worn because I had lost one of my heavy shoes in crossing a river,” wrote the former president in a 1918 letter. “I also remember such delicious nights, under a lean-to, by lake or stream, in the clear fall weather, or in winter on balsam boughs in front of a blazing stump.”

Maine Tourism Director Pat Eltman said the cooperative effort is needed to remind both Mainers and visitors from out of state that they can have a wonderful experience in the woods and along the waters of inland Maine.

“It’s rediscovering it or promoting it in a new century,” she said. “We are a four-season, world-class tourist destination but we are also a drive-to destination. Our biggest markets are Massachusetts and New York.”

Eltman praised the effort that will focus on promoting nature-based tourism opportunities to travelers visiting Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, Somerset and Penobscot counties. She said there are many activities from hiking and kayaking to fishing that visitors can enjoy in the region.

“People want a tourism product,” she said. “They want to go on a Web site and see that I can go kayaking here or gem mining. They want to see everything they might be able to do so they can plan out what they want to do.”

Bruce Hazard, director of Mountain Counties Heritage, a Farmington-based nonprofit, said the cooperative efforts of both the private sector and nonprofits such as his organization will bolster tourism in the Maine woods areas of the state.

“This is an effort to share all that we all know and love about our part of Maine, the inland or upland part of Maine,” he said. “We are very fortunate, in our part of Maine, to enjoy vast and beautiful landscapes.”

Gov. John Baldacci praised the effort to market the region instead of each resort or destination area having a separate marketing strategy.

“These partners have combined their considerable strengths to collaborate on tour packages that will create a true win-win for the entire region,” he said. “The packages highlight the great natural and cultural assets of inland Maine.”

For example, one package on the group’s Web site offers a visit to the submerged village of Flagstaff under Flagstaff Lake. It was created when a hydro dam was built downstream. Another is a package to visit a historic mineral mine.

“Our new slogan is there is more to Maine,” Eltman said. “This whole effort fits right in with there is more to Maine.”

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