I wanted to share a great chain reaction that I’ve witnessed now popping up in three different locations across the Northern Forest. We think it was inspired by the Northern Forest Regional Symposium, hosted by The Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund and the Northern Forest Center a year ago.

The Symposium put special emphasis on showcasing initiatives and ideas that had traction. So, Clyde Rabideau, mayor of Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks showcased a hiking challenge to bag all 6 peaks in the area, the Saranac 6ers. Finishers get the satisfaction of ringing the bell in town and getting a badge. Saranac Lake can use the initiative as a tool to promote and market the area.

The idea of introducing friendly competition to put Saranac Lake on the map as a hikers’ destination caught the idea of Angie Arno, the Chamber Director for the Moosehead Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. Angie took the idea and swiftly implemented a high-quality promotional effort in her area called the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit. The hiking challenge has helped market the Moosehead Lake region as a place that can meet all your recreation desires, and may help stretch their summer tourism season.

Finally, I heard last week that the committee steering a wellness and community development collaborative in Western Maine, dubbed Maine West, has been inspired by the idea of packaging hiking trails as a way to promote your area’s amenities for tourists, and also encourage locals to get active and adopt healthy lifestyle habits.

I’m excited by all the different recreation promotions that are popping up, because people took the time to come together in person, think creatively about how to position their communities for success in changing economic contexts, and then implement resulting projects. I take these three examples of collaborators as proof that the Northern Forest has leaders with the energy and capacity it is going to take to support thriving communities and generate local wealth from keeping forests as forests.