BATH — Your Oct. 11 editorial, “Our View: Investment, attention needed to make inland Maine a target for tourists,” was spot-on in identifying the need to stop underselling the areas away from the coast.

Having grown up in the interior along the shores of Moosehead Lake and now living on the coast, I witnessed the slow economic deterioration of the western part of the state and the exponential growth in some parts of the coast (even on the coast, growth is spotty and can be improved).

Ironically, areas like Moosehead used to be major tourist hot spots – as popular if not more so than the Bar Harbor region – but that was over a century ago. There was daily train and steamship service to the region, and prominent hotels dotted communities there. All that is gone now.

Residents of the region are doing what they can with the limited resources at their disposal to improve the environment for tourism, develop new sources of income and rebuild their populations.

For example, Millinocket and Greenville both employed an expert on community development and branding to assess their communities, and both are now acting on those recommendations.

Volunteers in the Moosehead Lake area have joined to identify and clear trails and establish mountaintop destination points, even producing a sleek brochure touting a six-mountain hiking challenge known as the Moosehead Pinnacle Pursuit.

The Appalachian Mountain Club, the Forest Society of Maine and other conservation organizations are also playing a major role in helping to develop new attractions in the region.

In the Maine way, people are helping themselves, but they should be getting more help both from the state and other parts of the state community – including this paper.

For example, take something as simple as the weather report. The forecast published in the paper separates the state into four regions, with the area from Greenville south lumped in with the Rangeleys as Region 2 and the northern part of Maine as Region 1.

But as anyone who has visited or lived in the area knows, the weather is often radically different in the area from Greenville north than it is in Bangor. The mountains and the largest lake inside one state east of the Mississippi make for different weather patterns, but tourists would never know that from listening to Maine Public Radio or reading the paper.

This is one reason why people in the area are trying to identify the “Maine Highlands” as a separate region in the state, marketing it for its unique attractions.

It would be great if the press helped reinforce this new identity in their reporting.

The state, too, could do more. Take, for another example, the Maine Turnpike. There used to be a rest stop and visitor center near Newport on Interstate 95.

This was closed for budget reasons during the recession and never reactivated. However, it is ideally placed to capture tourists going north to the Bar Harbor turnoff and provide them with information about attractions, businesses and events away from the coast. Why not reopen it now that the economy has improved?

The state should also take a more active role in advertising outside the state. This past summer, the rest of the country sweltered under record temperatures and drought.

It was dry in parts of Maine, too (mainly along the coast), but it was not sweltering.

What an opportunity to advertise Maine in places such as the West and Midwest! California and Arizona advertise everywhere – where does Maine promote itself?

Finally, the state needs to better deploy its economic development funds, providing more grants to help reinforce the efforts taken by communities themselves.

Sometimes it is as simple as helping communities with the funds to buy paint or purchase new signs for their storefronts or helping them with the expertise to develop their own economic growth plans.

It could be as simple as organizing a meeting of all the communities in the area to hear what each is doing to address their issues.

Look at what a small group of people is doing in Dexter to restart the shoe industry – it is a modest effort but a productive one, and it needs only a short infusion of funds to jump-start it to the next level.

A lot is happening in the Maine Highlands, but the region needs the rest of Maine and the government – including the state’s congressional delegation – to give it a helping hand. So step up!

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