Millinocket has always had a stake in tourism courtesy of Baxter State Park, the southern entrance of which is just 18 miles from downtown Millinocket. Visitors peaked in 1973 at more than 99,000 and bottomed out at about 55,500 in 2008. Last year there were roughly 63,000.

Although the numbers have started to rise, the park authority limits the number of visitors that can enter the park and climb Katahdin. That won’t change, which limits Baxter’s potential to spark an increase in the local tourism industry, according to the park’s director, Jensen Bissell.

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“For us to protect the resource adequately, some limits are needed,” Bissell says. “Limits are not popular with folks. I understand that, but if I want to bring my children to the park and have them experience it at the same level of quality I experienced it, limits (on the number of visitors) are the only way I can promise that to them.”

According to the park’s 2008 report, visitors to Baxter spend an average of $3.8 million a year in Maine during their trips, which leverages another $3.1 million in indirect spending, for a total impact of $6.9 million. That economic activity sustains the equivalent of 87 full-time jobs and $2 million in household earnings, the study claims.

– By Whit Richardson