BOWDOIN COLLEGE EAST — Visitors to Gulf Hagas and the surrounding region have an extra tool to use, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of Piscataquis County residents who are working to strengthen tourism.
Several state, local and county officials were on hand Tuesday for the unveiling of a new two-sided informational kiosk at the foot of Henderson Hill in the Katahdin Iron Works Jo-Mary Forest.
The kiosk has a map of the region as well as tourism and safety information for visitors.
“One of the important things is not only does it provide information about the Gulf Hagas area but other nature tourism sites within the county,” Gerry Whiting of the Appalachian Mountain Club and chairman of the Piscataquis County Nature Tourism Committee said Tuesday of the kiosk.
The committee, an offshoot of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, is represented by Whiting, Terry Knowles of Brownville, and Scott Snell and Donna Fichtner of Greenville. The new kiosk and a similar one installed at the southern end of Gulf Hagas were funded at a total cost of $10,000 through the Piscataquis County budget.
“We’re very proud of it. It’s been the culmination of a lot of effort on the part of the committee to bring this to fruition,” Whiting said.
Alan Stearns, deputy director for the state Bureau of Parks and Lands, praised the county’s effort.
“We are thrilled that Piscataquis County has taken the leadership on promoting nature-based tourism,” he said, adding that the state wants to follow the lead of the county and improve the state’s signs and kiosks and make the state property more inviting for tourists. “The fact that this kiosk was funded by Piscataquis County commissioners is a very significant and a welcome momentum.”
Stearns said the commissioners recognize that the nature trails in the region are economic development tools.
The kiosk “will give [hikers] a clue of where they are and the information on how to enjoy the region and stay out of trouble,” said David Field, overseer of lands for the Maine Appalachian Trail Club.
Greenville Town Manager and Piscataquis County Economic Development Council President John Simko, who also works for Greenville’s ambulance service, said the kiosk will give valuable information to hikers so they can be better prepared in case of an emergency.
“This is the very information a lot of folks have not had or have not appeared to have had and as a result have gotten into trouble,” he said.
“It’s very exciting to finally be able to have something in the ground that we can point to,” Fichtner said. The project was time-consuming because of the research involved, she said.
Ken Woodbury, the council’s marketing specialist, said the development of tourism as an industry is one of the panel’s foremost projects. “This is an important milestone in the development of tourism sites so that Piscataquis County becomes a destination tourism site,” he said.