WEST GARDINER — Travelers who miss seeing a moose in the wild can now find one locally at a tourist-friendly spot: the West Gardiner Service Plaza.

A larger-than-life, glossy Fiberglas depiction of a bull moose was installed Thursday near the picnic tables at the plaza on Route 126 that serves Interstate 295 and the Maine Turnpike.

Before many minutes passed Thursday, the 9-foot tall moose became a photo favorite.

Not far from the moose statue is a female black bear, which is about a third of the size of the moose.

Both statues were made in Quebec and are on loan from Adrian Brochu, of Madison.

He had set up several at the Ira Mountain subdivision he is building in Kingfield, then offered them to the Maine Turnpike Authority after interim executive director Peter Mills — a friend of Brochu’s — admired them.

Mills said he told Brochu, “I need a moose at a rest plaza. You stop by (the service plaza in) Kennebunk and you wouldn’t even know you were in the state of Maine. You could be in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.”

Mills said the master plan is to turn the service plazas into welcoming centers for the state. He said he wants to promote Maine as a place people come to visit, to work and to live.

The first moose was set up in Kennebunk, and three bears — two of them cubs that were bought later — were placed at the southbound plaza.

“They have been the biggest phenomenon at the rest plaza,” Mills said.

The problem is keeping people off them.

The Kennebunk moose has had so much attention the tip of an antler is broken. One bear has a crack in his back.

Those who stop to pose generally also shop at the service plaza stores, generating revenue for the turnpike that helps to keep tolls down, Mills said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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