Can hunting and fishing rebuild Greenville’s economy?

Moosehead Lake, MaineThe greater Greenville economy has launched a new branding initiative to float its sinking economy. And I was there for the birth.

Roger Brooks, an internationally-known community branding expert, presented the Moosehead Lake Region Branding Initiative in an exciting speech to a packed auditorium at the Greenville Consolidated School on Friday. I am certain that every one of us left that auditorium excited about what we’d heard and committed to making this happen.

But there were some disappointments, at least for me. For a community that was a major destination for hunters and anglers in the past, neither seems to be part of the new plan. While the community gets to work creating and implementing an Action Plan and To Do list, it is heartbreaking for this lifelong sportsmen to realize that my favorite outdoor activities are no longer considered growth industries.

Hunting and Fishing

When I was a kid, we journeyed very summer to the north end of Moosehead to stay at my aunt and uncle’s camp in Seboomook. I remember catching some remarkable landlocked salmon. There was also the May fishing trip when I woke to find the tent on top of my face. A blizzard had blown our tent down! Fortunately, we were able to move into the camp. Dad also hunted in nearby Shirley every fall, almost always returning with a deer, and one time, with a bear. Sixty five years later, I still have a jar of that bear oil!

We’ve been working to direct more tourism marketing dollars to hunting and fishing, in legislative bills, but time and time again, tourism officials have explained to me that the state’s limited tourism marketing dollars must be directed to growth industries, and hunting and fishing are not on that list. We’re not giving up, and Representative Bob Duchesne’s marketing bill, which he sponsored at my request, will be up for a hearing toward the end of the month. Bob has worked closely with me on this bill, and if you’d like to get a head start on the discussion, you can listen to his radio show on the subject, accessed here.

I had a long conversation two weeks ago with a Moosehead region guide, concerned about DIF&W’s decision to award 50 moose cow permits this year. That issue will actually be raised sometime soon at the legislature. This guide, even though he concentrates on hunting and fishing, said an important part of his business now is moose watching, and it’s getting harder and harder to find moose for his customers. Without doubt, the moose population is in decline. So he thinks it’s a bad mistake to kill cows, and he’s probably right.

This guide also told me that the togue fishing in Moosehead has seriously declined. He had trouble this winter getting any togue for his ice fishing customers. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in an attempt to reduce the togue population, apparently went too far, and now togue are few and far between. As we talked, I gained a better understanding of why, two weeks later, I would hear that hunting and fishing are not a significant part of the new branding and marketing plan for the region.

America’s Crown Jewel

Lodge at Moosehead LakeRoger Brooks and his exceptional team of local folks have settled on “America’s Crown Jewel” as Greenville’s brand. As Roger went through his hour-long presentation, I was impressed. Here are a few take-aways from my 12 pages of notes.

Too much of the Moosehead Lake waterfront is taken up by government agencies, said Roger. I thought about the Regional headquarters of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, right on the lake in downtown Greenville. It would make a great spot for a restaurant, or that pavilion Roger suggested.

He talked a lot about curb appeal and the need to fix up the exteriors of stores and restaurants, and even suggested moving the visitor center that is up on the hill outside of town, to the downtown area.

While the plan starts in Greenville, it will include surrounding towns, and as many as 40 weekend events. “That takes you beyond recreation like every other Maine town offers,” he noted.

You couldn’t help but be inspired by Roger’s wild enthusiasm for this region. “Look at what you’ve got,” he said, using words like legendary, amazing, and breathtaking. And each was demonstrated with photos and banners. He said he took all of his photos in a single day.

But when he came to mentioning specific growth opportunities, I heard about mountain biking, weekend events… and YES! He mentioned fly fishing! I was kind of amused by his concepts: “unspoiled wilderness, vast forest trails.” I’ve been in real wilderness, and we don’t have it. But I am also remembering a survey showing that visitors wanted to hike into the “wilderness” but get out of there in time for a nice dinner at a nice inn. So I have no problem with marketing Greenville as a community on the edge of wilderness. Unspoiled. Well, yes, in some places!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.