Tourism > Why Nature Tourism: Benefits
> Case Study - Down East Maine
Studies: Down East Maine - A grassroots sustainable tourism plan
by permission of The
International Ecotourism Society
East Maine has incredible natural and cultural resources and,
unfortunately, uneven visitation patterns. Acadia National Park
receives three million visits a year while areas of Washington
County looking to develop their tourism economies go undiscovered.
With the DESTINY 2000 plan, we hope to reduce pressures
on Acadia while developing other sustainable tourism opportunities
Down East that will encourage economic development while protecting
the region's resources."
Clement, Conservation Director,
Friends of Acadia
To provide for the conservation of local natural resources, preservation
of cultural heritage, and regional economic development for the
present and future communities of Washington and Hancock counties
through sustainable development of cultural and nature tourism opportunities.
In the mid 1990s , the increase in tourism in the Down East region
of Maine led to the formation of a volunteer citizens group to
preserve and protect natural resources while promoting jobs, tourism
and the quality of life. The group helped create the DESTINY 2000
grassroots plan that reflects the planning and research carried
out by regional stakeholders. It addresses the strategies needed
to implement sustainable tourism in scenic Maine.
Maine is on the northeastern coast and includes two counties,
which have a population of approximately 82,000. Down East is
comprised of 1,200 coastal islands. Although Down East Maine is
a major source of seafood, tourism is ranked above the fishing
industry as the leading employer. The Down East region is famous
for Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, the third largest
island on the east coast. Ferries operate from the ports and transport
visitors to various destinations around Mount Desert Island. Whale-watching
tours leave from Eastport, the easternmost city in the United
States, and chartered interpretive cruises transport tourists
along the coast to Canada.
Goals for Sustainable Tourism
Four key goals were developed early in the community planning process:
- To maintain
a unique and healthy natural environment capable of supporting
- To establish
and maintain local coordination, ownership and retention of related
- To maintain
ecological and cultural sustainability, so that future generations
are left with the same quality of resources and opportunities
as the present generation.
- To create/develop
a means of education and interpretation for the communities to
further the goals of sustainability in the region.
the cultural resources of Washington and Hancock counties
and codes of practice
proposes strategies for achieving five sustainable tourism goals
Development: Create new employment and business opportunities,
and ensure local retention of economic benefits from tourism.
Consideration: Ensure that increased numbers of tourists and
related business do not degrade the quality of natural areas.
Preservation: Protect and revitalize historical places and
Coordination: Ensure collaboration among local citizen groups
working on tourism, and ensure local ownership and decision-making
Inform the local community and visitors about the natural and
cultural history of the area.
Efforts and Cooperation Builds
The Fifth Annual Sustainable Tourism Conference built on the previous
conference, and featured local field trips, "The Taste of
Down East Maine" reception, and workshops. The theme of the
conference was "Down East Sustainable Tourism Through Grassroots
Efforts." Field trips were organized to showcase local natural
and cultural destinations. State parks, artist cooperatives, wreath-making
companies and historical museums were visited and discussed. A projects
and strategies list was developed and serves to guide continuing
the shoulder season
for expanding the tourism season, possibly extending money-making
opportunities throughout the year. The Down East region of Maine
receives its highest overnight occupancy rates from July 1 to
Sept. 1. As a result, the region's towns sought to promote
cultural attractions during other months.
Blue Hill Heritage" festival, held in October featured
story-telling, boat-building and quilt-making demonstrations.
See What's Cooking" event was created by the Hancock Planning
Commission and was also held in October. A guide was published
for visitors and featured a week-long itinerary for patronizing
local restaurants that use local growers/producers.
In early June,
the "Warblers and Wildflowers" festival offered
interpretive guided tours to observe birds and flora, and interpretive
talks were given on warblers and wildflowers. The Northeast has
the most diverse variety of warblers in the United States.
byways and bike lanes
the infrastructure capable of supporting and managing increased
tourism by designating scenic byways and adding bike lanes.
A third strategy
was to promote the use of mass transportation where appropriate,
to develop the necessary infrastructure, and to encourage public
transportation in order to minimize the environmental impact and
A fourth strategy
was to refine and increase publicity for and marketing of the
Down East region as a unique cultural destination.
the impact of increased tourism
was devised to implement a system for monitoring the effects of
increased tourism on ecological systems. Acadia National Park,
in conjunction with the University of Vermont, has set up a system
to monitor visitor carrying-capacity for the carriage roads. Cameras
are used to count the number of people using the roads and monitor
for an identified carrying capacity per day.