Bethel has been an increasingly popular spot for people to visit, largely due to its many different outdoor recreation activities. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — Last Wednesday, via Zoom, a group of business, municipal and non-profit leaders launched, and with it, the websites pledge to “embrace our place.”

The website said the pledge “helps us communicate our community values to newcomers and visitors.” The five major points of the pledge are to “honor the land, explore wisely, show respect, cultivate community and be climate conscious.”

“This pledge represents a new way of thinking about how locals and visitors alike can interact with our environment and community and its getting some attention at a level statewide and beyond as a leader,” executive director of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce, Jessie Perkins, said via Zoom. “We’re not the only ones concerned with tourism’s impact on our resources and we hope we can be a good example for others going through similar things.”

Playing a huge role in helping the area get this far was the Bethel Area Community Tourism Summit, a three-part event held last January, largely attended by municipal officials, and business and non-profit leaders, that focused on how rural areas like Bethel can capitalize on global and regional trends to create a strong and sustainable tourism industry. Discussed during the final part of the summit were the five strategic pillars of tourism: workforce and housing development, regional collaboration and communication, expanding on green and environmental options, community engagement and creating distinct and memorable visitor experiences.

Director of the Maine Office of Tourism, Steve Lyons, called the area’s focus on sustainability “well timed” given the circumstances brought on by COVID-19.

“Travelers are looking for experiences that will naturally allow them to social distance and outdoor recreation lines up perfectly with that,” Lyons said.

“Another thing that stands out with the Mahoosuc Pledge and regional tourism plan, is that you guys have taken this holistic approach, this includes regional collaboration, community engagement, workforce and housing, environmental leadership and visitor experience,” Lyons added.

Lyons commended the Mahoosuc region’s unity and effort regarding tourism and thought that other communities across the state may use a similar model to address their economic development and tourism needs.

Dave Beurle, who is CEO and Founder of Future iQ, a company that focuses on strategic planning, gave an overview of the new website. Beurle said the structure of the website is supposed to be for people visiting the region.

“One of the reasons for the website is to connect to people who are thinking of coming to the area,” Beurle said. “The point of it is to prepare people on how they need to behave, how they can be part of the region, and how they can be part of sustainable tourism.”

Beurle helped facilitate most of the tourism summit that occurred last January.

People who want to take the pledge, donate or just check out the new website can visit and click on “our pledge.” People can also visit the Facebook page “Mahoosuc Way: Pledge to Embrace Our Place.”

A few people took the pledge during the nearly hour-long Zoom event, with Marry McFadden and Larry Stifler being the first two to partake.

The website was  launched with more than 30 organizations, businesses and people donating to the effort, including Robin Zinchuk, Amy Halsted, Bonnie Pooley, Steve Wight, Edward Easter, Lisa Gordon and John Treadway, Sally and John Kroeker, Mark Brown (West Bethel Motel), Jeffrey Sloan, Leslie Jones, Tom Davis, Brenda Blond, Jim and Henrietta List, two anonymous donors, The Philbrook Place, The Barn Collection, Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, Mahoosuc Land Trust, Bethel Inn Resort, True North Adventureware, Maine Office of Tourism, Town of Bethel, Town of Woodstock, Town of Greenwood, River Fund Maine, CEI Consultants LLC, Gould Academy, Stifler Family Foundation, Community Concepts Finance Corp., Stonetree Creative, Sunday River, Inland Woods + Trails, Future iQ, Align Media and the Bethel Historical Society.



Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: