With new tourism opportunities identified and developed, the task
force will begin connecting the new venues with state and regional
tourism marketing entities via the Maine Office of Tourism. "We are
expanding the base of visitor opportunities, which is the first step
in making a difference — one job, one business at a time," says
Roger Merchant, UMaine Cooperative Extension educator and chair of
the Piscataquis Tourism Task Force. "Through collaborative efforts
in tourism economic development, a rural renaissance is occurring in
Photo by Roger Merchant
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For visitors taking a day trip to Gulf Hagas,
a picturesque three-mile gorge along the Appalachian Trail, the Maine
community of Brownville has long been a "last stop" for goods and
services before heading deeper into the North Woods.
But folks in Brownville know that their community
has more to offer visitors. With the help of University of Maine
Extension and the Piscataquis Tourism Task Force, Brownville and other
communities are taking stock of their visitor assets — from unique
natural areas to cultural landmarks — and putting themselves on Maine's
"We work with communities across the county, helping
them inventory and evaluate their tourism assets," according to Roger
Merchant, a University of Maine Cooperative Extension educator and chair
of the Piscataquis Tourism Task Force, who says Brownville's attractions
include a monument to 19th-century Maine surveyor and mapmaker Moses
Greenleaf, the Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District
Forest, the Pleasant River Walk and the town's untapped, long-standing
role in railroading history.
"It's created community pride and unlocked some of
these best-kept secrets in the community and surrounding region."
The Piscataquis Tourism Task Force was established
in 2005 through a partnership between UMaine Cooperative Extension, the
Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, the Piscataquis County
Commissioners and the county's key tourism stakeholders. Emphasizing
countywide collaboration, it is redefining rural development by mixing
grassroots tourism development with traditional economic development
focused on business and industry.
In its first year, the task force reviewed new and
existing tourism research to draw up recommendations for an action plan.
Among the newest research was a 2004 study of local attitudes toward
nature-based and cultural heritage tourism, conducted by UMaine's
Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center. The survey found residents and
business owners open to niche tourism opportunities that "do not erode
or compromise rural quality of life."
The task force has supported four new complementary
tourism development initiatives: nature tourism and "Villages of
Piscataquis County" itineraries; interpretive enhancements at two
trailheads for the Appalachian Trail; and a CD and guide to the 45
waterfalls of Piscataquis County.