By Ramona du Houx –

January 4, 2011
Governor John E. Baldacci received the final report from the Governor’s Nature-Based Tourism Task Force and thanked them for their service, last December.

“Maine is lobsters, lighthouses, L.L.Bean, and so much more,” said Governor Baldacci. “Nature based tourism boosts economic development in every region of Maine.”

The task force was formed five years ago to implement recommendations by Fermata, a nationally known nature-based tourism consulting firm, to develop and expand nature-based tourism opportunities in Maine’s rural communities.

The approach was new to the state because it focused on making the effort regionally led. In this way local communities had a direct input into highlighting and investing in what they agreed were their best natural assets.

“I’m pleased with the successes detailed in this report,” said Governor Baldacci. “This effort began five years ago as an economic development initiative focused on rural Maine, where there is a wealth of natural resources, but a lack of basic tourism infrastructure to connect visitors to these recreational opportunities. Natural resources and tourism are vibrant elements of our State and our economy and have been priorities of my Administration.”

Task Force members have focused on making the critical connections between regional resources, tourism and economic development. During tough economic times, an important goal has been how to maximize resources and by doing so, to propel Maine as the premier tourism destination.

Last summer the Department of Conservation launched a Maine State Park Passport initiative that grew from this task forces work. Sixty thousand passports were issued. For many people living in Maine the quest of visiting all of the state’s parks became a family vacation goal as twenty thousand people visited all of the state’s parks.

New signs were erected by the Department of Tourism to direct visitors to each regions natural assets.

The Sunrise Trail, Downeast, has snowmobilers, and nature enthusiasts on in all year long.

Maine Huts and Trails, a unique trail system with huts built along the routes, opened it’s third wooden hut that also serves food this year.

And Maine’s Bird watching initiate grew from Rep. Bob Duchene’s input.
“Bird watching is amazing. Maine really has a tremendous opportunity here.”e task force is drawing thousands of visitors from out of state,” said Duchene.

The Governor said that impressive gains have been made since the initiative began, and that fully achieving the goals of the initiative requires continued and long-term commitment from all partners.