September 12, 2018

Franklin County survey to gauge recreational, ecotourism impact

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Kingfield, in Franklin County's High Peaks region, is one of the towns being looked at as part of a study by Colby College and the High Peaks Initiative on tourism and economic impact in the region.
Photo / Maureen Milliken
The Carrabassett River is one of the features that draws visitors to Maine's High Peaks Region. A study by Colby College and the High Peaks Initiative has surveyed residents, visitors and businesses on how best to market the area.

As part of the Franklin County's High Peaks Initiative, Colby College and the High Peaks Alliance partner with nonprofit Maine Huts & Trails in Kingfield, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Maine Mountain Collaborative, New England Forestry Foundation, Northern Forest Center, The Wilderness Society, Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust, Center for Community GIS, Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust and Trust for Public Land.

Colby College will join Franklin County's High Peaks Initiative to survey both residents and business owners on the economic impact of recreation and conservation in the region and how best to market it.

A survey of more than 400 visitors and residents was completed over the summer by two Colby interns, and a 25-question survey of businesses is underway.

The High Peaks Region includes most of Franklin County, including including Carrabassett Valley, Kingfield, Stratton, Rangeley, Farmington, Phillips and Madrid, and others. The High Peaks Initiative is a group of outdoors and conservation organizations that seek a coordinated approach to resource and land management, public access, recreation use and integrating conservation and recreation into the local economy.

Co-coordinating the initiative is the High Peaks Alliance, which services the region "to ensure and enhance recreational access."

Colby is conducting the economic study in conjunction with the ALPINE (Academics for Land Protection in New England) program, said Philip Nyhus, director of Colby's Environmental Studies program.

The surveys are aimed at getting a feel for how ecotourism, nature and destination tourism has an impact on the local economy, and will help those in the region understand how best to advertise the region in efforts to increase tourism, said Lily Wong, a Colby sophomore who, with fellow student Sally Burke, conducted the surveys as an intern with the program..

The study began in fall 2017 and they hope to have preliminary results by next spring, Nyhus said.

The business survey, being conducted online, asks questions about labor retention, staffing and the amount of money spent on goods, utilities, marketing and more.

Wong said the surveys for individuals were shorter and done in person, and took about five minutes for those answering to complete.


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