The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands manages a little more than 600,000 acres in our state and offers less than 15% as many miles of hiking trails (175 miles versus 1260 miles) and far fewer boat launch sites (35 versus 203) than land trusts. So it’s no surprise that land trust lands see a lot more public use, partly because many of them are located closer to population centers and popular tourist destinations.
A current study by the legislature’s Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Committee has collected some fantastic information about how much we benefit from the state’s land trusts and their conservation lands.
In my previous column I gave you a report on the ACF Committee’s first meeting and today I want to share more of the information provided by a study conducted by the Maine Land Trust Network.
In a section titled “Benefiting Maine’s Tourism Economy” some great examples were offered. For example the Great Works Regional Land Trust works with approximately 40 area businesses to promote the land trust’s recreational opportunities and to make their trail guide available to customers.
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust is supported annually by more than 80 local businesses and works with many of them to cosponsor community programs and events.
The Coastal Mountains Land Trust developed a take-a-hike brochure and conserved land direction pad that is distributed monthly to area inns and local Chambers of Commerce. And the Damariscotta River Association partners was 70 local businesses including hotels and B&Bs that offer land trust trail maps to their guests.
Linda and I have especially enjoyed lands in the Damariscotta and Boothbay Harbor region and this report noted that the Boothbay Region Land Trust has 16 preserves totaling 1169 acres, 32 miles of hiking trails, 3 miles of ATV and biking trails, a boat launch and beaches. An analysis completed in 2013 estimated that more than 67,000 visitors to the Boothbay region enjoyed these lands. That would definitely include Linda and me. Their preserve guide is the most requested brochure at the Boothbay Harbor region Chamber of Commerce.
The Downeast Lakes Land Trust partners with 40 Grand Lake Stream guides who bring clients to the Downeast Lakes Community Forest. The trust invites a dozen area lodges and inns to direct their guests to fish, hun,t hike, boa,t and enjoy other outdoor recreation on their properties.
Linda and I have written many travel columns about the Lubec area and appreciate that the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Downeast Coastal Conservancy have worked with state and federal agencies as well as 19 local businesses to publish a wonderful guide called Cobbscook Trails. We have one and use it a lot.
In northern Maine, The Nature Conservancy provides 93 bear bait sites and each year welcomes more than 250 paddlers to the remote St. John lands. They also host nearly 5000 snowmobilers on three trails that wind through the Debs Conecuh Lakes wilderness area.
And a 2016 study conducted by economist David Vale, found that lodge guests, visitors, and activities within the Appalachian Mountain Club’s 75,000 acre Maine Woods property generated $2.18 million in spending in Piscataquis County in 2015. This past summer Linda and I wrote a travel column about AMCs amazing new sporting Camp, Medawisla.
There were other projects and land trusts cited in the section of the report focused on contributions to our economy, but this gives you a pretty good idea of how comprehensive and important these conservation lands are.