MILBRIDGE, Maine — Both a personal and professional interest spurred Crystal Hitchings to start a Milbridge revitalization effort.
On a professional level, she works for the Washington County Council of Governments, which, among other things, promotes tourism in the county.
On a personal level, she’s a Milbridge resident.
“It’s an amazing little town,” she said. “It certainly doesn’t lack any scenic beauty.”
Hitchings decided to form a revitalization committee to help the town she sees as the “gateway” to the rest of Washington County.
“The more there’s an attractive gateway, the more people will want to explore it,” she said.
Acadia National Park is pushing people to explore the Schoodic peninsula by building a campground and establishing a ferry, she said. Washington County needs to capitalize on this. Doing so starts with Milbridge and its key location.
“This end of the county needs a boost to help attract people to our region,” she said. “We hope that with all of these links … [tourists] will see the whole region as a destination.”
Hitchings discussed her idea with members of the Milbridge Area Merchants Association and town officials, all of whom were supportive.
“It’s not a town committee but the town has expressed its support,” she said.
So far, six people are interested in being on the board, which will have up to 10 members.
“Once the board is formed, we will start pulling the public in,” she said.
The group will be asking questions such as how to fill empty storefronts. What would their ideal downtown be? What would it look like? What kinds of businesses would be a part of it?
A meeting took place in March and Hitchings plans to schedule another one for early May.
“I need to reach out to some folks and get the conversation started,” she said.
Calais, Eastport and Machias already have revitalization programs. Members of the Milbridge group will most likely meet with officials from these other locations to find out what worked and what didn’t, she said.
The Dec. 11, 2014, death of Dave Parsons, owner of the Milbridge Theatre, spurred some talk of making the theater the group’s first project, Hitchings said. The idea is to turn the movie house into a community theater with a stage for theatrical and musical performances.
“It would bring that spark of life back into the town,” she said, noting Parsons’ brother, Richard, is on board with the idea.
“It would be, in a sense, a memorial to Dave,” she added
The whole project is not about the theater, however.
“The overall interest is for economic growth in downtown Milbridge,” Hitchings said.
For more information or to get involved, contact Hitchings at 214-0588 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.