Scenic Bikeway to Connect Calais with Bold Coast Region

Tourism bicycling is becoming increasingly popular in Down East Maine, drawing visitors to Eastport, Calais, Machias and all points in between. When it is completed in 2018, the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway will offer over 300 miles of scenic trails for bicycle enthusiasts to travel on. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Hitchings)

By Lura Jackson

 

Bicycle tourism is becoming increasingly popular across the country as those from the baby boomer generation embrace the combination of a nostalgic pastime and the experience of seeing incredible scenery at a slower pace. In Maine, tourists are coming from all over the world to appreciate the natural beauty and rustic environment, and local enthusiasts are getting on board at a steady rate. In recognition of the trend toward recreational bicycling, Maine’s first scenic bikeway is in the midst of preparing to open next summer. The Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway will travel 300 miles up the coast between the Schoodic Peninsula and Calais. 

The Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway was directly inspired by the success of 2016’s BikeMaine event, which attracted 400 riders from all over the country. Participants biked between Winter Harbor and Eastport for seven days, stopping at numerous communities along the way. The economic impact of that single week of BikeMaine in Washington County alone was estimated to be $626,000. 

“We want the tourism industry to grow enough to support the existing businesses and hopefully enough to encourage more entrepreneurs to start a business here,” said Crystal Hitchings, Regional Planner of the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway. “No one is going to come from outside to save our communities and our economy, it is up to us to do this.” Hitchings explained that by being proactive in defining how our communities relate with one another and with outsiders, coastal Maine towns can avoid having their cultural heritage diminished. “In planning for our future, it is critical to understand not only where we have been and where we are now, but also to have a strong sense of where we want to go from here.”

The cultural identity of Eastern Maine is strongly rooted in natural resources. Industries related to the extraction of natural resources have been steadily decreasing for a variety of reasons, however.  Concepts like the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway enable communities to continue to celebrate their natural resources in a sustainable fashion. “Natural-resources-based tourism is the clear path forward if we want to connect heritage and place with industry,” Hitchings said.

Bicycle tourism is a different industry than motor vehicle tourism, Hitchings explained, and there are many factors that make it ideal for this region. “Bicycle tourism attracts the demographic we most want to attract:  people who seek greater connection with nature and with local culture, and who have a sense of adventure and are resourceful and self-reliant. These are the people who will appreciate both ‘who we are’ and ‘what is’ rather than trying to change us to fit their expectations.”

As the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway nears completion, it will be marked by permanent signage along its entire route. A website will be brought online offering interactive maps and trip digests, along with a list of services in each area. The bikeway will be promoted nationally beginning in the late spring as the official launch date approaches. 

While funding goals for the project have been met in part already, there are still some facets of the bikeway that will require additional funds. Hitchings is in the process of securing funding for the creation and installation of route signage, and she said that more funds will be needed beyond the initial $14,000 raised as the trail continues to be developed. 

To find out more about the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway, visit www.wccog.net/bold-coast-scenic-bikeway.htm.