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UMaine Today Magazine


Connection

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 Piscataquis County."
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 Piscataquis County."

Photo by Roger Merchant
 

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Rural Renaissance

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 tourism map.

"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.
 

UMaine Today Magazine
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