The first-ever Community Destination Academy in Maine’s Moosehead Lake region demonstrated a new approach to building the capacity of business, municipal and non-profit leaders to expand local economic opportunity through Rural Destination Development. The program combined a series of targeted skills training workshops with financial and technical assistance for local projects including rebuilding the boardwalk along Moosehead Lake in downtown Greenville and developing plans to increase the economic impact of 10 local events in 2019.
The Northern Forest Center worked with its partners in the Maine Woods Consortium to bring this program to the Moosehead region. Additional partners include the Maine Office of Tourism, Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, and Destination Moosehead Lake.
The Community Destination Academy is designed to build local capacity to improve destination services and amenities that will attract new visitors, and ultimately new businesses and residents as well. Through a series of skills workshops this past spring, attendees learned about experience development, marketing, grant writing, and strategies for working together as a team.
This fall, with matching funds provided through the Community Destination Academy program, the town of Greenville completely rebuilt its lakeside boardwalk – a critical element of the local downtown experience. The rebuilding project was spearheaded by town selectperson and Destination Academy participant Janet Chase who organized more than 20 volunteers and contributions from a dozen local businesses to make the project a success.
“Janet really demonstrated the value of local leadership in rallying people around a project to make a tangible improvement in a vital destination amenity,” said Mike Wilson, the Center’s senior program director. “The new boardwalk will be in place to help visitors enjoy downtown Greenville for another 20 years!”
Strengthening the connection with the Moosehead area brand emerged as one of the most important themes from the Destination Academy project committee focused on increasing the economic impact of local event The workgroup conducted outreach to the organizers of 10 local events to learn how they could more effectively organize and market Moosehead Lake’s signature events like the Togue Fishing Derby, International Seaplane Fly-In, and "Moosehead Mainea," a 5k & 10k. Strategies and recommendations developed through this process included:
- Focus external marketing on 3-5 “Signature Events” with the most potential to attract visitors;
- Strengthen, or reinvigorate, the thematic link between local events and the Moosehead Lake area brand;
- Coordinate regional event marketing and volunteer engagement; and
- Emphasize opportunities for local businesses to engage with and benefit from events that attract visitors to the region
These recommendations will guide ongoing work by local event organizers in the coming year.
Community Destination Academy participants will reconvene later this year to reflect on the work they completed over the summer and identify new project opportunities.
Building on the successful launch of the Community Destination Academy in the Moosehead area, Maine Woods Consortium partners will be reaching out this fall to identify additional communities to participate in the program in 2019.