“The story of Rangeley is a great story. You have something here that’s ready for prime time. We’re Mainers — we understate things, and we’ve got to get over that in our marketing.”

Fred Michaud, Maine Department of Transportation

RANGELEY — Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway has received a small grant to revise its Corridor Management Plan.

Nearly 11 years ago a group of local residents, consultants and Maine Department of Transportation staff convened to develop the plan. It serves as a blueprint for the byway’s goals and activities. More than $5 million in federal highway funds was secured to construct scenic turnouts and install visitor amenities such as public restrooms, interpretive panels, safe pedestrian areas and picnic facilities.

Projects that the plan has spearheaded over the years include the Whip Willow Farm Overlook on Route 4; safety improvements at the Noyes Overlook on Route 17; safety and picnic area improvements and restroom facilities at Smalls Falls; 16 interpretive panels at four scenic turnouts; and year-round public restrooms in Rangeley and Oquossoc.

It is customary to revise them every 10 years or so, and it is hoped the revision will be completed this year.

On Feb. 28, Rebecca Kurtz, scenic byway coordinator from Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, and Judy Morton, executive director of the Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, hosted the first of a series of meetings designed to encourage public participation in the economic development and planning process. The meeting was attended by representatives of the logging and restaurant industries, Rangeley Friends of the Arts, and the Rangeley Board of Selectmen.

Kurtz said the original $5 million in federal highway funds has leveraged another $5 million in road improvements, and an estimated $20 million added to the local economy. She said there will be more meetings for the public and local businesses.

Morton said that the chamber will be stepping up in a large way to help with marketing.

“We’ve completed Phase 1, and now we need to shift to Phase 2 to market the Byway features for the benefit of the area,” Morton said. “There are only 150 National Scenic Byways in the country, and the second most popular reason people come to Maine is for scenic drives. I want to get out to our businesses — everything you have needs to have our logo.”

As an example of the byway benefits, Morton said that 30 bus tour operators are bring half-day trips to Rangeley because of the availability of restroom facilities.

Fred Michaud from the Maine Department of Transportation said, “The story of Rangeley is a great story. You have something here that’s ready for prime time. We’re Mainers — we understate things, and we’ve got to get over that in our marketing.”

Local consultant Bruce Hazard noted that the original plan focused on the road, and now the plan needs to expand to include the lakes, mountains and service centers.

“The organization needs to include all local groups and sectors within the community,” Hazard said. “It’s a network approach, a corridor partnership plan that involves natural systems, and recreational, scenic, service and cultural amenities.”

Organizers stress the more public and stakeholder participation there is, the better the plan will be because it will represent the needs and goals of the local community and help generate economic growth.

The next public meeting will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 5, at the Rangeley Town Office.

For information or to provide input, contact Rebecca Kurtz, byway coordinator, at 864-7311, ext. 5, or email: [email protected] or Judy Morton, Rangeley Lakes Chamber of Commerce, at 864-5571 or email: [email protected]

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