Franklin County Tourism Network
Planning Team Meeting 12/11/08
Attendees: Chris Beach and Lloyd Griscom, High Peaks Alliance; Forrest Bonney, Maine
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Chris Colin (guest), Unity College; Marc
Edwards, Franklin County Cooperative Extension; Betty Gensel, Coastal Enterprises,
Inc.; Alison Hagerstrom, Greater Franklin Development Corp.; Fred Hardy, Franklin
County Commissioner; Bruce Hazard and Shaunacy Cobb, Mountain Counties Heritage;
Dina Jackson (phone), Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments; Evelyn
McAllister, Rangeley Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce; and Lorna Nichols, Franklin
County Chamber of Commerce.
High Peaks Alliance presentation. The meeting began with a presentation from Chris
Beach about the High Peaks Alliance’s backcountry trail system and the Maine
Appalachian Trail Land Trust’s High Peaks Initiative. He started his presentation with a
video about the High Peaks region created by Chris Collins, one of his students at Unity
The High Peaks Alliance is a group of local citizens with a vision for the High Peaks
region (stretches from Weld to the Bigelows) that connects communities through a
backcountry trail system. They believe that planned residential and commercial
development in the ring of existing communities (Rangeley, Phillips, Carrabasset Valley,
and Eustis ) and resorts surrounding the High Peaks will succeed in combination with
conservation to secure the area for timber harvesting and four-season backcountry
recreation. They are providing a forum for local people to consider different perspectives
(motorized vs. non-motorized recreation groups) and share ideas about projects like new
multiple- use backcountry trails and improved landowner relations. Lloyd stressed that
these conversations start with mutual respect and cooperation to find common ground.
Chris also mentioned the need to brand the area and actively promote it as a region.
There were questions about the Navy land coming into play with the closing of the
Brunswick Naval Air Station. Chris explained that there has been no conversation about
this land becoming available and that it will continue to be a survival training ground. It
is his understanding that if the Navy were to give up the property, it would be first
available to government users, then non-profits to purchase, and finally private businesses.
Bruce was interested in the planning aspect since there has never been a fully developed
plan for the area (best places for development, set aside for timber harvest and
recreation). Chris explained that two seniors at Unity College have created a High Peaks
Recreation Plan that tries to accommodate a variety of uses and depends on voluntary
permissions from landowners.
The Alliance is currently made up of a core group of 10 people with signatures from an
additional 50 citizens supporting the vision. They are working their way through the
towns and recruiting selectmen. The group needs help communicating their vision to
more residents and visitors through general outreach, invitations to meetings, support
letters and conversations about local collaboration.
High Peaks Forest Legacy project presentation. The High Peaks Initiative of the
Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust is working to build a larger land base of conserved
lands through a public and private partnership. The High Peaks Initiative intends to
conserve land in the vicinity of the Appalachian Trail for multiple motorized and nonmotorized
uses while continuing its tradition as a working forest with sensitivity towards
special ecological areas. The funding is a combination of private, individual donations
The High Peaks Initiative’s Forest Legacy Project resulted from a meeting with county
commissioners that was covered heavily by the press and came to the governor’s
attention. MATLT was invited by the state to submit a Forest Legacy application. If
approved, this federally financed grant would provide money to support the working
forest through conservation easements that guarantee public access. There is no plan for
the National Park Service to expand their area along the Appalachian Trail. Marc
explained that the NPS mandate is to provide parks and land for use by the American
people and that legislation dictates what the users are. The current partners on the High
Peaks Initiative Forest Legacy Project are three major timber operators and the Maine
Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Wild Brook Trout Initiative presentation. Forrest Bonney from Maine IF&W spoke
about the Wild Brook Trout Initiative. He feels that the wild brook trout resource in the
backcountry ponds is underutilized and under marketed when it could be used to attract
anglers to Franklin County. Out of the 32,000 miles of streams in Maine, approximately
25,000 have brook trout. Most anglers who visit the state are not interested in harvesting,
most practice “catch, and release.” A majority of these remote ponds in Franklin County are
publicly accessible with current permissions from landowners with a few controlled by
Marc had heard from several guides that expanding fly- fishing only to some of these
ponds would help their business. Forrest responded that the mortality from spin bait
versus fly- fishing is the same, using live bait has the biggest impact on mortality rates.
Forrest explained that the average size of the fish has actually decreased because of
restrictions launched in 1990; these regulations have caused an increase in fish
populations which can cause more parasites and competition over resources.
IF&W needs a mechanism to let people know what is available for marketing. A majority
of these ponds require a hike in, allowing for an isolationist experience with beautiful
scenery and abundant wildlife. It would be ideal to bring together lodging, guides, and
the licenses into a package. Working with Maine Huts and Trails could also have a great
benefit. The Chambers and the Maine Lakes and Mountains Tourism Council would like
to gather more information from Forrest to include in their guidebooks and websites.
Marc would like to talk further with Forrest to see how they can incorporate his work
with local guides.
Cooperative Extension Customer Survey presentation. Marc presented on the
Franklin County Visitor Survey results. This presentation is about the Franklin County
Tourism Network workgroup page at www.mainewoodsconsortium.org. Marc learned a
lot from this process and felt that he could improve the design for next year to increase
reliability. He plans on going through and separating out specific businesses, parsing out
individual characteristics and doing additional number crunching to see what other trends
emerge. There will be community-based meetings next year to roll out this data. He
would like to start again in the spring with a wider net to capture data beyond just nature
based tourism. Also, Marc is very interested in looking at marketing beyond websites
through social networking sites and podcasts. He may run tests with small businesses to
determine how effective marketing through these outlets can be.
Tourism Training presentation. The Training Program conversation began with
summaries of the workshops offered this fall. Betty reported that the Customer Service
Training in Rangeley was a success with 60 attendees and a wait list. She felt they could
have charged an additional $5 and still had the same attendance. Feedback received
centered around the short amount of time to teach the subject with requests for more
hands on examples and delving into specific scenarios. Overall feedback was very
positive and Betty has the contact information for businesses for future follow-up.
Dina reported on the Tourism Marketing Workshop that she facilitated with Greg Gould.
Turnout was a little disappointing, 14 people signed up but only 10 attended. The group
was heavy on the lodging side and very engaged with the topic. Dina and Greg
emphasized the need for businesses to differentiate themselves in the market. Many
businesses said they were going to go back and rework their current marketing plans or
write one. There was expressed need for help creating ads since few can afford an
agency. This could lead to future workshops on brochure design, website improvement,
and marketing strategies.
Bruce gave a quick update on the Maine Woods Training Program. Both the Franklin
County Tourism Network and the Maine Woods RDT group have shown great interest in
training. The question then becomes how to structure an ongoing training program to
address employee and business needs. There are opportunities already available through
the community college system, UMaine system, private consultants, and non-profits.
How can these be tied together to meet the need? The Betterment Fund has given $15,000
to support the development of a training program. Funding still needs to be found for
implementation. The hope is that this will be woven into a statewide system of handling
training and business support.
Carolann Ouellette at MOT had suggested looking at ways to send employees to training
opportunities outside Maine. Marc and Chris wondered if there was a way to offer
scholarships so business leaders could go the National Association of Interpretation
conference next year in Hartford.
Communications platform for this network. The final conversation centered on the
need for a communications platform for FCTN. The primary questions are: how to inform
businesses about upcoming workshops, promote collaboration between businesses,
educate about shared marketing opportunities and offer a way to share successes. Lorna
suggested using the weekly bulletin that reaches over 800 through a collaboration of the 3
chambers. She also suggested using press releases in local papers. Marc volunteered to
write an op-ed for the local papers talking about what is going on with tourism in
Franklin County. Dina suggested asking the businesses directly how they get their
information perhaps through a survey monkey.
This conversation brought up concerns about duplication of efforts. An additional
conversation in January and a meeting with interested parties will address this issue.