MILLINOCKET -- Partners in the Katahdin Region have created a “wayfinding” design concept to help visitors find the outdoor experiences and local businesses they need to make the most of their visit to the area.
The Katahdin Region offers vast recreation opportunities, including hundreds of miles of multi-purpose trails, to more than 75,000 annual visitors who explore its lakes, mountains, rivers, forests, and towns, including Patten, Sherman, Island Falls, Mount Chase, and Stacyville. Combined with cultural and business attractions, these assets are key to the region’s goal of becoming the “premier four-season outdoor destination in New England” as stated in the Katahdin Gazetteer.
Over the past year, area stakeholders have worked with a professional design firm to create a wayfinding concept that will provide consistent, attractive, and well-placed signage to help visitors more easily navigate all that the region offers.
"This integrated wayfinding plan will help visitors and residents find the recreation opportunities that the Katahdin region has to offer,” said Eben Sypitkowski, director of Baxter State Park. “The 70,000 visitors to Baxter State park annually will benefit from cohesive and regional signage.”
The project began in 2018, when the Northern Forest Centersecured initial grant funding from USDA Rural Development to create a regional wayfinding design using Millinocket as the pilot community. The project’s goal is to improve visitor experiences, increase visitation to the downtown, help people find recreation sites, and continue to build public interest in the Katahdin region as a destination.
"The wayfinding signage project is a critical piece in our tourism infrastructure. The signage will help visitors find what they are looking for - from businesses to trails to landmarks, which means they will have a better experience while they are here," said John Hafford, vice president of the Katahdin Chamber of Commerce and co-owner of Designlab, a design firm in downtown Millinocket. "The sign system will help small businesses in the area and will benefit the local economy."
The Center hired Alta Planning to generate a design and develop technical assets, such as sign templates, that can be used to implement the project throughout the region. With input from key community stakeholders, Alta Planning also created a map of recommended signage locations for the pilot in Millinocket. The map highlights the downtown corridor showing small businesses, points to recreation opportunities, and provides directions to local amenities.
“We’re excited to roll out the pilot in Millinocket,” said Maura Adams, program director for the Northern Forest Center, “and hope we can help other Katahdin Region communities take advantage of this design work as well. When there is one strong wayfinding system helping visitors navigate the entire region, it should benefit the entire regional economy.”
An array of well-known Maine institutions contributed funding for the project, including Brookfield Renewable. “Brookfield Renewable shares in Northern Forest Center’s mission of strengthening economic development in the greater Millinocket region,” said Miranda Kessel, manager of Stakeholder Relations. “We’re pleased to have the opportunity to support this project that will help enhance how visitors and residents experience the abundance of four-season recreational offerings the Katahdin region provides.” Other funders include Elliotsville Foundation, Baxter State Park, Maine Community Foundation and Katahdin Federal Credit Union.
The full design includes all motorized and unmotorized transportation sign types and details such as size, thematic icons, and directory maps necessary for an effective wayfinding system.
Production of the new signage for Millinocket is estimated to cost $20,000 - 25,000 and will be paid for through private and public grants and donations. The Center and partners will work with the town to apply for grant funds, choose final sites for sign placements, and request bids for sign fabrication and installation.