Chicken…

Or egg? That’s where Coös is stuck.

After the Symposium, my wife and I went to Bar Harbor, Maine, to visit friends for the long weekend. There I got to talk with Jeff Butterfield, one of the local innovators in their outdoor economy.

He was there in the 1980s, when visitors to Bar Harbor were more likely to drive the park loop road than to rent a sea kayak or go hiking. When he first got there, he said, he nearly starved because people didn’t think of the area as a place for outdoor sports. Recently, he said, a sea kayaking operation sold for more than $1 million, but the process of launching an outdoor industry was painfully slow.

Coös will undoubtedly have the same challenge. Right now the effort is on the “low hanging fruit,” i.e. ATVs and snowmobiles. But there are entrepreneurs slogging their way through other types of outdoor recreation, like North Woods Rafting.

How much time, money and energy can the region invest in making itself into an outdoor destination? There is the potential, considering all the nearby destinations are crowded because of their reputation for solitude. Surely Coös can do the same thing; the question is can it do it in time?

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