Maine’s annual tourist season is set to open in just a few days with the Memorial Day weekend. There’s a lot of discussion as to whether the price of fuel will keep people away, or will it have little effect on the industry. My take on the issue is that it will have some effect, but the other cost increases and inconveniences will cause much greater damage to the industry as a whole. That includes everything from C stores to gift shops, as well as restaurants, lodging and travel.
No matter how you look at it, there are just so many dollars out there to be spent on vacationing, and every state in the Nation, as well as other foreign nations are clamoring for a piece of that particular money pie. Other states as well as Maine have announced new and/or improved programs to boost their own tourist industries. Maine announced recently a new advertising campaign for just that purpose.
But what Maine has that others don’t seem to have is a tax grabbing political leadership bent on destruction of the state’s economy. One of the big issues is the airplane tax. Baldacci seems bent upon collecting tax from people who own small aircraft just because they can afford to come to this state in a plane and visit. Whether on business or pleasure, it makes no difference to the Augusta Revenuers. Catchy name, maybe they should go into baseball. The use tax, which in my opinion is unconstitutional, applies whether the owner lives in Maine or not. Great way to suggest wealthy people not come to Maine to spend their money, folks.
Other states have opportunities that they are exploiting, but Maine refuses to follow suite in their wake for one reason or another. Some states, like Pennsylvania and the Virginia’s are heavily investing into the historical aspects of their respective states. They promote these sites and opportunities like other states promote their casinos. While some progress has been made in realizing the importance of Maine’s heritage, a lot more needs to be accomplished before we can hope to compete in that area.
Let’s revisit Harrison and take another look at the Scribner’s Mill restoration project. Here’s an ideal example of where Maine always screws up and looses out due to special interest wrangling. An old sawmill sits on the banks of the Crooked River in Harrison, patiently waiting to be restored to its former glory. One of the things that needs to be done is to rebuild the dam and sluiceways to provide power to the waterwheel. If this project is successful, Harrison will have an exceptional tourist opportunity on its hands. With the proper development of the area, they could be hosting a destination similar to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts.
The ultimate goal is to restore the mill to the condition it was in the early 20th and latter 19th centuries, as well as to establish a working museum and living history exhibit. This is a fine goal, and these folks should be given all of the support they can. I can envision the mill sawing logs with its sash, or up and down saw cranking away, powered by the ancient waterwheel, just as it did in the 1800’s.
Tourists would be milling around taking pictures of all of the exhibits, and enjoying their stay, while at the same time learning about Maine’s heritage. And of course, there would be shopping at the gift shops afterwards. And don’t forget about dining that evening before going back to their Bed & Breakfast, or maybe catching a show at the Deer Trees Theater.
There are other sites in Maine that also lack the attention they deserve. One of the areas we need to better promote is the history of Maine’s forts. From fort McClary in Kittery to the Fort Kent Blockhouse, there are many forts that don’t receive the attention they deserve. Fort Williams in Cape Elizabeth is one such place. Parts of the park need to be extensively renovated, but funds are lacking, just like everywhere else.
I’d like to see some kind of movement towards funding Maine’s special historical places. Restoration and preservation of our vanishing heritage is important, and deserves more attention than it is getting. Like I’ve said before, properly handled, these sites can generate significant revenue for the state of Maine. If we build it, will they come? You bet they will! Does anyone out there want to take the lead in this issue? Let’s bring Maine’s past to life, shall we?