After hearing about how ATVs were boosting the economy around Berlin and Gorham, New Hampshire, John Raymond decided to see for himself.

President of the Northern Timber Cruisers ATV and Snowmobile Club, Raymond visited during last year’s Jericho ATV Festival, which draws thousands of riders. He was struck by how every campground, gas station, restaurant and motel was filled with four-wheelers.

Now Raymond, a former Millinocket town councilor, is trying to turn the Katahdin region into a destination for ATV riders. He’s got a rough plan for using more than 3,000 acres of state-owned land that’s part of the Dolby Landfill in East Millinocket, which accepted papermaking waste until the Great Northern Paper mills closed. That land eventually would be stitched together with another 3,000 acres of private forestland to create a trail corridor connecting major ATV and snowmobile routes in the region, as well as area towns.

“It’s kind of a copy of what Berlin is doing,” Raymond said. “After seeing what I saw in Berlin, I thought we’d be a perfect area for something like that.”

Branding the Katahdin region as an ATV destination could be part of the diversification that needs to take place to pull the area out of its economic malaise, according to Mike Osbourne, a spokesman for Our Katahdin, a citizen group working to promote economic and community development. The group considers recreational tourism as one of three pillars that will support a new economy after paper making. Also important are other elements of the forest products industry and a digital economy that uses broadband to attract call and data centers.

Still to be determined is how the new 87,563-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument can play a role in these visions. Deed restrictions allow for some snowmobile access, but ATVs are prohibited. Local ATV clubs are trying to work out an agreement, as part of a long-range management plan being developed by the National Park Service.


Beyond motorized recreation, opportunities exist to draw visitors for canoe trips on the East Branch of the Penobscot River, mountain biking on old logging roads and hiking along the International Appalachian Trail. The trail runs over Deasey and Lunksoos mountains, two peaks with striking views of Mount Katahdin.

In Saranac Lake, New York, for example, residents looking to bring hikers to their Adirondack Mountain community developed a promotion called the Saranac Lake 6er, which offers a patch for visitors who climb all six high peaks ringing the village.

The potential for more recreational tourism will be explored Nov. 17, as part of a speaker series being organized by Katahdin Revitalization, another citizen group. That event may also include a presentation from an official from Berlin.

In an unlikely development, Millinocket is hosting a winter road race – on Dec. 10 – called the Millinocket Marathon & Half. Now in its second year, this free event is expected to attract up to 1,000 runners. It has been certified this year as a qualifier for running in the Boston Marathon.

The race course includes logging roads with views of Mount Katahdin. It was thought up by a marathon director in Bar Harbor as a way to help the struggling mill town. The story was picked up in Runner’s World, leading to national interest.

The only requirement for runners is that they support local businesses and contribute to the Katahdin region. Fundraisers also have been set up this year for Our Katahdin and the Millinocket Memorial Library.


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