Machias panel focuses on downtown revitalization at meeting

Posted June 10, 2011, at 7:26 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Discussion at Friday’s Machias Downtown Revitalization Committee focused on creating a welcoming, attractive, safe downtown for visitors and shoppers.

Business owners and others discussed the flower planters on Route 1, the perennial flower beds at Bad Little Falls Park, attractive wood cutout designs by the Beehive Collective that are advertising Margaretta Day, a new safety fence and other projects such as road repairs and signage.

While the latest and past meetings have focused on downtown beautification to entice new businesses and shoppers, one new attendee Friday felt the group should turn its attention to social issues.

“What has not been addressed here and what we should be addressing are the underpinnings that affect Machias,” said Sandi Bryand, owner of Bags O’Rags.

Bryand said the committee should look at issues such as drug addiction and the low level of education. She said that “when you have 50 eighth-graders and then only graduate 20 kids, something is wrong.”

She said that revitalizing the downtown so that it appeals to tourists and high-end customers is a mistake. “Our year-round customers are not rich people,” she said. “They are poor people.

“If we want a strong downtown business area, we need to deal with those issues,” she said. At the close of the meeting, Bryand said she likely would not return to the next meeting since the group does not focus on social issues.

In other discussion, several business owners said they felt the tourist numbers were down this year. Dale Miller of the Machias Valley Area Chamber of Commerce said her office is much quieter this year than last. “We have had less requests for information, but it is still early in the season.”

Several things were blamed for the perceived lack of tourists including weather, gas prices, the strength of the Canadian dollar and that school is not out of session in many Maine districts.

Miller also said the local Rotary chapter wanted to help install safer railings on the pedestrian bridge at Bad Little Falls Park and will work with a local volunteer to expand and maintain the perennial flower beds at the park.

Members of the Machias Farmers’ Market said they have had some difficulties with people parking in the area of the dike designated for the market and asked Machias Town Manager Chris Loughlin to look into allowing the market to expand.

“We need more room,” market master Barbara Anthony said. Vendors also asked that Loughlin pressure the Sunrise Trail Association about putting chloride on the trail, particularly in the area of the dike, to keep the dust down from passing ATVs.

“This is an issue,” Loughlin admitted. “Now that the trail is operating, they need to maintain it.”

In other business, Bryand said she has nearly completed creating an updated master list of local businesses, and that Holly Garner-Jackson at Woodwind Gallery now will formally advertise and provide tourist information services.

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