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February 20, 2024

Maine's outdoor recreation economy is finding a new roadmap to growth

person standing in water with fishing net and pontoon plane in sky COURTESY / MAINE OFFICE OF TOURISM Boating and fishing contributed $412 million to Maine’s GDP in 2022, according to a study released last year.

Outdoor recreation contributed $3.3 billion to Maine's economy in 2022 — nearly 4% of the gross domestic product — and now stakeholders have joined forces to grow the that amount.

The trade group Maine Outdoor Brands, the University of Maine and the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation have begun working on a plan to guide and diversity the growth.

“This effort is not just about defining Maine’s outdoor recreation economy; it’s about unlocking its full potential,” said Carolann Ouellette, director of the Maine Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Through a baseline analysis, strategic identification of growth drivers, and expanding partnerships, we’re laying the foundation for a thriving future.”

The Maine Outdoor Recreation Economy Roadmap has four objectives, the organizers say:

  • Provide an analysis of the economic value of the outdoor economy for the state.
  • Define and increase awareness of the diverse sectors that make up Maine’s outdoor recreation economy.
  • Identify strategies and investments needed to fuel sustained growth and diversification of Maine’s outdoor economy over the next decade.
  • Forge partnerships and collaborations to secure additional investment and enact the strategies identified.

“This collaborative effort is poised to propel Maine’s outdoor recreation economy to new heights, fostering job creation, economic resilience and an enhanced quality of life for residents and visitors alike,” said Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands and a 2023 Mainebiz 40 Under 40 honoree.

Other partners in the initiative are the Maine Marine Trade Association, Mane Technology Institute and Bureau of Parks and Lands. The steering committee has over 20 individuals from public and private sectors. 

The initiative started with a stakeholder engagement process launched last November at the Maine Outdoor Economy Summit, which drew nearly 200 industry stakeholders from for visioning sessions. 

There will be public input opportunities to craft the plan. That will include facilitated workshops from Feb. 26-Feb. 29, a second set of workshops to be scheduled in the late spring and a survey available on the roadmap's website. 

The final plan is expected this fall.

“Our long-standing outdoor recreation expertise and new initiatives within the university and across the University of Maine System create opportunity for a more sustainable, inclusive and innovative outdoor recreation economy,” said Joan Ferrini-Mundy, University of Maine’s president and the system’s vice chancellor for research and innovation.


 The workshops will be held virtually on Zoom.

  • Feb. 26, Outdoor Recreation Participants: Inbound and Local — Mainers and those from out of state who participate in Maine’s outdoor economy. The session will include exploring Maine’s identity and brand, heritage and legacy, diversity and inclusivity, and balancing tourists' and residents' needs.
  • Feb. 27, Sustainability and Climate Change — Sustainable transportation for people and businesses; clean technology, climate adaptation and energy efficiency; business adaptation and extreme weather resilience.
  • Feb. 28, Land Use/Water Use/Natural Resources — Land and water stewardship and conservation; private land and water access, and recreational connectivity; and educational opportunities related to the preservation of Maine’s natural resources.
  • Feb. 28, Outdoor Recreation Supporting-Infrastructure — Physical and informational infrastructure needed to enable the accessibility and connectivity of outdoor recreation assets, climate adaptation and natural resources management, and the quality and consistency of outdoor experiences.
  • Feb.  29, Outdoor Industry Workforce — Private, public and nonprofit sector workforce, including career pathways, wages, benefits, seasonality and volunteerism; workforce development including education and training; and workforce housing.
  • Feb. 29, Economic Development — Aspects of economic development, including support for businesses (startup, growth, innovation and technology); supply chain and cluster development; rural revitalization; and marketing for business and workforce attraction.

Funding to develop the plan comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, through a grant program administered by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The money is specifically aimed at addressing challenges posed by the pandemic on Maine’s travel, tourism and outdoor recreation industries. 

For more information, click here.

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