Funding to help create scenic byways to attract tourist dollars to St. John Valley, MDI

Posted April 28, 2011, at 6:47 p.m.

FORT KENT — The community and the entire St. John Valley will benefit from a Federal Highway Administration grant to the Maine Department of Transportation to create the St. John Valley Cultural Byway.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud announced news of the $75,200 in funding Thursday. The DOT also was allotted $52,200 for the Acadia All-American Road project on Mount Desert Island.

The St. John Valley project will lead to the development of a Strategic Corridor Management Plan for the St. John Valley Cultural Byway, which was named for the diverse and vibrant cultures of the people that settled in the region.

The management plan will coordinate the preservation and promotion of the many historical resources in the area, including seven sites on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as harness and utilize the local organizational skills and tremendous volunteerism that has successfully hosted several international events. Among those events are the annual Can-Am Sled Dog Race, World Cup and Junior Olympic Biathlon competitions and the Acadian Festival.

Officials said that the project will immerse the traveler in the history and culture of the St. John Valley, uncovering the details of the bloodless Aroostook War, ethnic deportation, and resettlements of French-Canadian, Acadian, Scotch-Irish and Native American peoples, and the evolution of agriculture, timber harvesting and the paper industries.

The project also will identify various interpretive media and technology to increase public awareness about the region.

The Acadia Byway project will create passage along the Acadia All-American Road. A gateway monument will be created at the beginning of the byway and an additional welcome sign on crossing onto Mount Desert Island. Informational maps will provide visitor orientation at the beginning of the byway and again at an existing turnout located close to the entrance to Mount Desert Island next to the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker. The connection between these points will be reinforced through local business and municipal partnerships for the beautification of Route 3. Officials said the project will benefit the byway traveler by instilling the sense of arrival when distant views of Acadia National Park first emerge at the head of the Acadia All-American Road and upon crossing into Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island.

“These investments will help our state further highlight the history and cultural significance of these important corridors,” Michaud, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a written statement. “At the same time, these projects will help attract more visitors to these areas, which will increase economic activity in the communities along these scenic roads.”

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