Project Updates

Maine Outdoor Economy Summit


maine outdoor economy summit

Posted 02/05/2024


The Maine Outdoor Economy Summit (MOES) took place in Rockland, Maine from November 29 to December 1, 2023. During the summit, we launched the Maine Outdoor Recreation Economy Roadmap planning process. The launch focused on engaging individuals from across the outdoor rec sector in a variety of ways.

Ultimately, the planning effort for The Roadmap will include extensive outreach to stakeholders as well as data collection and global benchmarking. Just as expansive as Maine’s natural beauty is the state’s wide array of voices. We want to hear from all of them.


  • 18 interviews conducted with selected participants to glean their perspective on the assets, challenges, and potential of Maine’s outdoor recreation economy
  • 4000 post it notes on the “visioning wall”
  • 20 respondents to a short survey asking for input to define the outdoor recreation economy
  • 130 attendees at the Roadmap launch and visioning session
  • 110 attendees at the Roadmap talent and career pathways brainstorming session
    We incorporated insights from each of these sets of feedback into the high level takeaways explored below.


What is the outdoor recreation economy?

  • “What isn’t it? It’s such an integral part of being a Mainer. Regardless of what business you are in, you have a connection to the land.”
  • “At its core, it’s about being active outside and involves some connection to place.”
  • “Exclusionary and patronizing — people look down on the slow hiker. It’s based in colonialism — doing it the best, doing it the fastest.”

Who should the Roadmap benefit?

  • “Everyone, but it should be especially intentional about including rural communities, children and youth, Native Americans, New Americans, people of color, women, the LBGTQ+ community, and low-income individuals often left out of the outdoor economy, the environment, and natural ecosystem.”

What are the sector’s strengths?

  • “The natural beauty and diverse geography of Maine — its coastline, mountains, lakes, rivers, highlands, and more.”
  • “People are really connected to the landscape. People are resourceful and clever in how to approach providing services or making products. The economy of Maine never boomed, so people had to be smart about business development and resilience. I think that sets them apart.”
  • “The Maine outdoors has the potential to provide healing from trauma and connection with self, place, and other people.”
  • “Even as businesses are scaling in the global marketplace, A survey of 200+ businesses found that U.S. consumers are willing to pay a 22% premium on products made in Maine. As businesses grow they still find value in associating with the Maine brand.

What are the sector’s main challenges?

  • Balancing economic opportunity with environmental stewardship
  • Creating a culture of inclusivity, including:
  • Removing exclusivity and toxicity in certain sectors. One respondent wrote that “it’s easy to feel like you don’t belong.”
  • Being more welcoming and inclusive of communities historically left out of outdoor recreation (low-income, LGBTQ+, women, people of color, and people with disabilities)
  • Acknowledging that many outdoor recreation activities are expensive and hard to get to, and providing solutions and programs to tackle these barriers
    Addressing the lack of affordable and workforce housing, especially for seasonal workers
  • Providing livable wages for the outdoor economy workforce
  • Supporting small outdoor economy businesses to help them stay afloat
  • Preparing for climate change and ensuring climate resilience
  • Expanding beyond the strong relationships within Maine regions to create connections between those regions.

Areas of focus as we move forward in the planning process

Creating a Roadmap that is climate resilient. As one respondent said, “We think a lot about climate change effects. It can’t be ignored if the seasons get longer. We have to model out the effects. What are we going to lose? What are we going to gain? How are we going to help people transition across industries like sugar mapling, lobstering, and so many more?”

To that end, we must focus on:

  • Businesses and how they will adapt to the changing climate and new technology
  • New movers to the state, and constraints they will both face and create
  • Transportation. As one respondent said, “We can’t claim Maine is trying to be climate neutral if everyone is driving individual cars and traveling 3x their commute to get to the mountains to ski.ven EVs are not carbon neutral. We’ve tried carpooling, which hasn’t worked. If we’re trying to be sustainable, we need public transit to rec areas!”

Environmental stewardship. As one respondent said, “We need to make sure we are being good stewards.” This means making sure the right infrastructure exists to meet growth. If we’re going to move the needle, we need to make sure everyone is on board.

  • Business/supply chain sustainability
  • Land use

A more inclusive and welcoming outdoor economy. As one respondent said, “There needs to be a focus on Outdoor Equity — how do we reduce barriers of entry like income, race/ethnicity, gender/identity, and physical access/ability?”

  • The “Maine Brand”
  • Heritage and legacy
  • Public health (including physical and mental health initiatives) and increased accessibility initiatives

A Focus on Workforce. As one respondent said, “The workforce development system needs to focus on high-quality career opportunities for young people, rather than funneling them into seasonal, lower-paying jobs where they can’t build a career.”

  • Career pathways and education
  • Affordable and Workforce Housing. As one respondent said, “Housing is a challenge in rural areas, particularly since the pandemic. Many houses have been bought, and they are not available for seasonal workers or even available year-round for the current workforce.” In addition, it is difficult to find in-town housing in coastal counties that’s affordable to rent or own, forcing many workers to live further away from their employer, leading to longer commutes.

Rural revitalization. As one respondent said, “I would love to see parts of the state that are underused begin to flourish because of outdoor rec opportunities — a sort of rural revitalization.”

  • Business readiness
  • Private landowners providing conservation access
  • Infrastructure
  • Accessibility

Support for small businesses. One respondent told us, “More support is needed for entrepreneurs and small business owners, especially those who are making things. It has been exciting to see them emerge, but highlighting and elevating them would enhance Maine’s reputation as an outdoor recreation destination.”