SANFORD — About 71/2 miles from the nearest Maine Turnpike exit lies a part of the Maine beaches region that proponents say is just perfect for an adventure park, indoor water park, and all-around Maine woodland-themed resort.

And after some research, a study by nationally and internationally recognized experts in the field, Sanford folks are pitching the York Pines proposal to companies in the industry.

At the city council meeting Tuesday, those involved rolled out a video they’ve included with the pitch, extolling all the reasons why Sanford is the best place possible for a theme park resort and the attributes of the region.

York Pines is the brainchild of Sanford resident and tourism industry retiree Bill Underwood, who first pitched it to the council back in 2012. The proposal appealed to Sanford businessman H. Allen Mapes, who has been championing Sanford for 60 years, since the textile mills closed up in 1954, idling 3,000 workers all at once. And while the footwork to entice economic development might be a bit different now than it was then, it’s still a pitch. Mapes got involved, some other business people became involved, and the city also contributed some money to finance an initial study.

Mapes on Tuesday recalled that back in the 1950s, folks thought economic development wouldn’t come to Sanford.

“They said, ”˜That’s a pipe dream,’” Mapes told the council. “We did it then … and we can do it again.”

The seven-minute video includes vignettes of the Sanford community and wider area, along with conversation by Mayor Tom Cote, Underwood and Larry Wyatt, an entertainment industry design consultant. It features aerial views of Sanford, the beaches region, and shots of people ziplining over a river, canoeing, a rustic lodge, and more. It winds down with a message from Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

Wyatt spoke about the resort in the video. The envisioned project, he said, includes a central village with hospitality, food and beverage, retail and specialty retail, exploratory experiences, simulation theaters, Maine-based adventures and more.

“The theme park itself would be inspired by Maine within a woodland and natural environment, and the one we imagined would attract 1.8 million visitors annually with an investment of about $300 million,” he said in the video.

Potential components of a theme park include an indoor water park, wilderness campground, a retail complex and family entertainment center. Among the selections are possible rustic RV campsites, tree houses, a nature center, white water canoeing, zip lines, a ropes course, tree trekking, a flight-simulator ride, forest adventures, special effects, heated indoor and outdoor pools, Go Karts, musical performances, and a host of other possibilities.

According to statistics provided by the growth council, the Maine beaches region attracted more than 11 million visitors in 2013, spending more than $1.5 billion.

Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council Director Jim Nimon told the council that the project has had tremendous support from the state.

York Pines has designated the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council as its principal point of contact for the tourism development project.

“York Pines has secured the first right of refusal on nearly 400 acres of undeveloped land in south Sanford, mailed a video brochure and marketing materials to chief executive officers of the top 20 companies in the industry, and attended the annual conference of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions,” an economic growth council update states.

For more information on the York Pines project, visit

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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