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July 19, 2022

Public garden in Boothbay gave $42M economic boost to the region last year

wood troll in woods Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens A new report says Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens has a significant economic impact in Maine. Seen here is one of the garden's giant troll sculptures, mounted in 2021.

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay had an economic impact of $41.9 million across the region last year, according to a new study by Stepwise Data Research.

The figure includes over $15.2 million in job earnings for 490 workers who were directly or indirectly employed by the nonprofit.

Within Lincoln County, the garden supported $24.5 million in business output, $8.8 million in earnings and 310 jobs.

At nearly 325 acres, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is the largest public garden in New England. 

“The continued innovations at the gardens have contributed to both increased visitation to the Boothbay area, and the extension of that visitation into the shoulder seasons,” Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in a news release Tuesday.

In 2021, CMBG received the most visitors it's ever seen in a single year, 336,400, since opening in 2007. Much of the draw was due to the arrival of an exhibit of giant troll sculptures.

aerial of gardens
Courtesy / Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, New England’s largest public garden, opened in 2007.

According to the study, the garden has tripled its number of annual visitors since 2014.

“This report confirms what we had suspected and helps to quantify CMBG’s significant impact on the state’s economy and the growing effect we expect to have,” said the gardens’ president and CEO, Gretchen Ostherr.

The study noted that the organization’s capital expenses rose to a record $7.9 million in 2021, as it recovered from the impact of the pandemic. 

New investments included a native butterfly and moth house, a native bee hub, and a caterpillar lab in August.

Sharp growth and future plans

The study said the sharp growth in visitation and revenue at CMBG was due to multiple factors, including “increased demand from the public for meaningful outdoor activities.” 

Other findings included:

• Operational revenue has more than doubled since 2019 and increased steadily even through the pandemic. 

• Visitors came from all 50 U.S. states. Roughly three-quarters of visitors were from Maine. 

• In addition to spending at the gardens, visitors spent an estimated $5.8 million at restaurants, $3.1 million on lodging, $2 million at retail stores, and $1.2 million on other recreational activities.

The organization has plans to invest an additional $42.5 million in capital projects between 2022 and 2027, with a goal of further increasing in visitation. 

If the plans are realized, and if operating expenses and visitor spending patterns follow today’s patterns, that could support least 640 jobs and $19.9 million in earnings, according to the study.

To view the full report, click here.

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