The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is already spurring small business growth and helping the Katahdin region heal.
As the owners of Shin Pond Village, my husband Craig and I can attest to the monument’s positive economic impact. In September and October, we got our first real glimpse at what a monument can mean for nearby businesses and communities. More people than ever were calling us to ask about the monument and book space with us and spend dollars that flow through our small business into those of our neighbors and our community.
As snowmobile season begins, the trend is continuing. One of the monument’s greatest assets is the fact that it provides for so many different types of recreation throughout the year. At Shin Pond Village, we’re seeing first-hand how this national treasure is drawing people with different interests no matter the season. People are interested in exploring the monument whether by foot, bike, boat, skis, or snowmobile. That provides entrepreneurs with unique opportunities to create and expand small businesses in the region. This is good for small businesses geared toward helping people enjoy the North Woods.
For us, we created a new rental business because of the monument. We intend to begin this season with snowmobile rentals and then expand to offer equipment for every season and interest, from mountain bikes to side-by-sides. This business will be run by our son Blaine, who has moved back to the area to raise his family. He sees the monument as an opportunity for expanding the services that Shin Pond Village offers, allowing him to make a living in our rural area. Before the monument was designated, it was difficult, if not impossible, to make an investment like this.
Before the monument, the best we could do was look at other national monuments or national parks and speculate about what it could mean for the region. Speculation doesn’t make for a very good conversation when businesses apply for loans to expand. But now hope is becoming reality, and the visitors we speculated about are coming. They want to know about the monument, and we’re happy to tell them all about it. People with different interests are glad to learn there is something for them here. They are booking snowmobile and cross-country ski trips, and they are staying, eating and shopping locally.
Just as important as the opportunities playing out for small businesses throughout the region is the fact that the fabric of our communities is beginning to knit back together. One of my good friends, now in her 80s, was opposed to the monument, so much so that she refused to even drive on the access road to see what it had to offer. Once it was established, like most folks around here, she wanted to make the best of it for our region. She was pleasantly surprised by the beauty, scenery and accessibility when she finally drove around the loop road. And I was pleasantly surprised when I next saw her and she told me how beautiful it was. Before the designation, we politely refrained from discussing the monument with each other. This pattern is playing out across our region as it has with every monument or park since Teddy Roosevelt protected the Grand Canyon and Woodrow Wilson protected Acadia, both of which were first established as monuments.
The Katahdin region has a lot of healing to do after the devastating loss of paper mills, the economic and cultural fallout, and the division over what would happen next. With the establishment of the monument, the healing is beginning. Business owners and community members are doing our part, having important conversations, and considering critical investments.
We must continue to move forward, and we cannot do it alone. With the possible exception of Sen. Angus King, our elected officials have done little to help achieve this incredible milestone and in some cases actively worked against it. They no longer have that luxury. The monument is here. It’s helping in concrete ways that nothing else has matched. Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin should join King to embrace, protect and promote Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
The monument has put us on the road to recovery. We need our senators and congressman to help make that road smooth, straight and sure.
Terry Hill is the owner of Shin Pond Village. She lives in Mount Chase.