By Dan Corcoran, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
I’ve been a real estate agent in the Katahdin region for the past 13 years. Before that, I spent 30 years with Great Northern Paper’s Woodlands Division as manager of forest policy and real estate leases throughout northern Maine.
Real estate, like anything, has its ups and downs. In the Katahdin region, we’ve been in a down period for years. The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument has the potential to be a major catalyst to turn things around for our region. The monument is already showing that potential in a big way.
As a realtor, I get to meet people from many places. This summer, even before the national monument was established, I saw how beneficial it would be to the area. Just the possibility that it could happen brought people up here. I met one couple who came to the Katahdin region because they had heard the talk about the possible monument and wanted to check it out. They fell in love with the place, and they bought property on one of the region’s lakes.
Another couple that I met was from Georgia. They came to Maine to visit Acadia National Park. While visiting Acadia they learned about the monument, and they decided to spend a few days in northern Maine to check it out. Like that first couple and so many others who visit this amazing place, they fell in love with it. They also decided they wanted to come back and spend even more time in the Katahdin area, and perhaps look at properties. They took my card. They told me they thought the monument and the Katahdin region was spectacular — and they even liked it better than Acadia because it has so much to offer and is less crowded.
It’s not a competition. Acadia and Maine’s coast has long represented our state to the outside world. That’s as it should be because our coast has played a big role in shaping Maine’s history, culture and economy. But the North Woods has as well, and it has long been a best kept secret. That was OK for many of us for a long time. But times are changing, and we have something incredible here to share with rest of the world. And the world is starting to take notice.
Roger Brooks, a tourism consultant who has worked all around the world, said it best in the fall 2014: “What you have here is … worth a trip from anywhere in the United States, Canada or even Europe. You may not realize it, but it is that good.” He was in Greenville at the time, but his words apply to most of northern Maine. They certainly sum up the Katahdin region. Now that the monument has been established, word is getting out and people are making that trip.
The growing interest in purchasing and improving waterfront property isn’t the only example of the monument’s immediate positive impact to our region. There also has been a big jump in the number of in-town lots and houses that have sold. In September 2015, there were almost no home sales. This past September saw more than a dozen in the Millinocket area alone.
These are very encouraging signs, and real estate isn’t the only sector in which the monument is having a positive impact. These trends can continue if we embrace the opportunity. When I say “we,” I mean our communities, state and elected leaders at the federal level.
The time has long since come for Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin to join the overwhelming majority of Mainers and get behind the monument. Over the years, the federal government has invested millions of dollars in the forest products industry, and that was a good thing. But this new opportunity is worthy of the same level of support and attention. And unlike previous investments, the monument — the recreation, beauty, history and culture it showcases — can’t be shipped overseas.
Thanks to the monument, things are looking up in the Katahdin region for the first time in a long time. The wind is at our backs, but the ship won’t move very quickly if we don’t unfurl the sails. As the BDN pointed out in its recent series on rural communities, taking charge better ensures success. We need all hands on deck to ensure that this momentum continues and grows and provides economic opportunities for the Katahdin region and Maine.
Dan Corcoran is the owner of North Woods Real Estate. He lives in Millinocket.