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October 9, 2018

New northern Maine bike route being developed to boost tourism

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
U.S. Route 1 in Van Buren, in Aroostook County. The Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou is working with the Maine Department of Transportation to establish a permanent federally designated bicycle route in northern Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

The Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou is working with the Maine Department of Transportation to establish a permanent federally designated bicycle route in northern Penobscot and Aroostook counties.

According to a commission news release, the bike route designation would complement and connect to the existing U.S. Route 1 bike route in Bangor and terminate at the international bridge in Fort Kent. The proposed route is approximately 320 miles and would be located on existing state and local roads and/or existing bike and pedestrian trails in the region. It's expected there will be no cost to the community for the designation.

The route will be part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System, a national cycling route network. It will utilize multiple types of bicycling infrastructure, including existing off-road trails, bicycle lanes, and low-traffic roads.

"From a tourism and economic development standpoint, it brings a different group of visitors to our region," commission senior planner Jay Kamm told the Fiddlehead Focus. Kamm said the route would traverse rural areas and include stops in larger communities and at cultural opportunities. It's expected the designation could be in place by spring 2020.

Building Aroostook’s tourism economy

The initiative builds on other tourist attraction efforts in the region. With Aroostook County Tourism, Northern Maine Development Commission is holding a 2018 Aroostook County Tourism Conference Oct. 25 at the Caribou Inn and Convention Center. To be discussed is the current state of hospitality and tourism in The County, why tourism impacts the bottom line for most businesses in the region, the importance of destination marketing and little to no cost ways to market a business.

According to the commission's news release for the conference, in 2017, an estimated 1.4 million visitors came to The County and spent $155 million there. That breaks down to:

  • Retail sales: Over $35 million
  • Lodging: Over $48 million
  • Restaurants and food services: $47 million
  • Fuel: Nearly $18 million
  • Recreation: $15 million.

Also, 2,752 jobs were supported by tourism in the region, generating more than $53.3 million in total earnings.

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