The Northern Forest Center is working closely with partners in the Maine Woods Consortium to build local capacity to improve the destination appeal in high-potential Rural Destination Areas across the Maine Woods. The concept of “destination development” is to strengthen the amenities, quality services and attractions that make places attractive to live in or visit.

Participants in the Community Development AcademyThe new Community Destination Academy (CDA) combines a 6-part, professionally led workshop series with direct financial and technical assistance to support implementation of local destination development projects.

Modeled on Oregon’s successful Rural Tourism Studio, the Destination Academy is built around three goals:

  • Build the capacity of local Destination Development Teams to advance a shared vision for their area;
  • Deliver skills training on topics including visitor experience development, marketing, fundraising, and more;
  • Support team-based project implementation to demonstrate tangible progress and to strengthen working relationships among destination area stakeholders.

The Center launched the first Destination Academy in the Moosehead Lake region this spring in partnership with the Maine Office of Tourism, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC), and Destination Moosehead. The 20 attendees included a mix of local business, non-profit, and municipal leaders—representing all the critical elements of a successful destination development effort.

On behalf of the Northern Border Regional Commission, the Center brought together public and private funders from across the region to take part in a day-long forum on the regional forest economy. More than 80 people attended, representing six federal agencies, 12 foundations, and seven Congressional offices, plus a variety of state and community partners. 

The Border Commission contracted the Center to develop and facilitate the event, with the goals of helping participants:

Joe Short facilitates NBRC Forum on Forest Economy crpd

    • understand the economic status and trends of core regional forest sectors and socio-demographic trends in forest-based communities;
    • learn about promising innovation and investment strategies for strengthening the forest economy and communities that depend on it; and
    • network with other public and private funders, with an eye toward opportunities for collaboration and co-investment.

The MTB Collaborative has awarded its first three mini-grants to help expand mountain bike trail networks and make more trails accessible to novice mountain bikers in the region. The Collaborative has awarded the grants to:

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  • PRKR MTN Trails in Littleton, NH, to make some of its trails easier and more appealing to aa wider range of riders, including young people.
  • The Coos Cycling Club to add three miles of new, hand-built trail that will expand its network on the north slope of Pine Mountain in Gorham, NH. 
  • Mahoosuc Pathways in Bethel, Maine, to add to its Bethel Village Trails this summer as part of an expansion that will eventually grow its network to 15 total miles of multi-use trails that start right from the village center. 

For three years, the Center has been working with UNH Cooperative Extension and the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions on a comprehensive inventory of all town owned land in the state. The survey portion of the project is complete and reveals some impressive statistics:

  • New Hampshire towns own 1,435 forested parcels that are 10 acres or more in size.
  • Town-owned properties cover 158,455 acres, equal to 3% of New Hampshire's forested land. (For comparison, Vermont communities own about 70,000 acres of forestland.)
  • Most town land (63%) is being managed for multiple uses including wildlife habitat, recreation, water or wetland protection, timber production and education.
  • 109,660 acres (69%) are permanently protected, which is considerably more than we anticipated.