Getting good press is nothing new for Maine. Towns like Bangor, Belfast, Camden, Rockland, Machias and Greenville have been designated as “cool,” “hip,” “creative,” “arts-friendly” and “young-friendly” by various magazines and Web sites in recent years. And it’s no wonder. These and other Maine towns have pretty 19th century brick buildings, nice sidewalks, waterfronts and interesting shops, bakeries, restaurants and inns. And they’re all low-crime, and they all offer easy access to outdoor recreation.
In fact, the people who describe our towns for these lists of great small cities and towns seem almost surprised that residents can drive just 10 minutes from downtown to find woods, pristine lakes and rivers and bays and enjoy hiking, bicycling and kayaking. It’s something we take for granted, but shouldn’t.
A decade ago, Waldo County businesses paid a firm to coordinate bringing travel writers from newspapers and magazines around the nation and world to the area. The firm put the writers up in bed-and-breakfasts, wined and dined them, and escorted them around to see the sights, all for free. The writers reciprocated with articles about the wonders of Waldo County. If the space the papers and magazines devoted to the stories were paid advertisements, they would have cost millions.
The latest tip of the hat comes from the current issue of Budget Travel, which put Rockland in its list of 10 of America’s “Coolest Small Towns.” Rockland is ninth on the list, joining Mount Vernon, Iowa; Wallace, Idaho; and Lexington, Va. The Rockland entry says, “You’ll find just enough sophistication to balance the saltiness of mid-coast Maine in Rockland.” Boutique owner Beth Bowley, who returned to Maine four years ago, tells the magazine: “Rockland is filled with folks who’ve seen what the world has to offer and want to be here.”
Budget Travel continues: “As pleasant as a short visit can be, the real risk of visiting Rockland is that you’ll do the same and need to move here for good.”
Earlier this year, Rockland ranked second in Budget Travel’s readers’ picks for the country’s coolest small towns.
There’s more. The Bold Coast region of Washington County was featured as a “Wilderness Hideaway” in the August editor of Backpacker magazine, and Martha Stewart Living featured five Maine state parks in an article on hiking in Maine. These mentions are more than a pat on the back. Backpacker has an annual circulation of 2.7 million, and Martha Stewart Living circulates 24 million copies each year.
If mere fractions of readers visit, or better yet, move to Maine, the economic impact is substantial. Instead of giving in to the temptation to be down in the mouth, we Mainers should begin believing our press clippings.