Maine Tourism Association: Public Affairs Update April 17, 2017
Small Communities Tourism Fund: One of the things that sets Maine apart from other tourism destinations is the number of fun, unique festivals held year-round throughout the state. Whether it be the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the Moxie Festival in Lisbon, the Whoopie Pie Festival in Dover-Foxcroft, Snodeo in Rangeley, or the Eastport Pirate Festival, they all draw visitors to host communities to celebrate things and areas that make Maine special. Just recently, Millinocket has hosted a successful December marathon as a way to boost traffic to downtown businesses between the region’s busy fall and winter tourism seasons.
How to promote and help fund some of these events is the focus of a bill introduced this session by Rep. Erin Herbig of Belfast. LD 1306 establishes the Small Communities Tourism Fund in the Maine Office of Tourism to issue grants to small communities to promote tourism and events. The fund consists of money received as appropriations, allocations, and contributions from private and public sources, and must be held separate from all other money, funds, and accounts within the Office of Tourism.
The bill does not specify the size of the grants, what type of events would qualify for funding, or whether or not events would be limited to a one-time grant. Those decisions would need to be made either through the direction of the Committee or by the Office of Tourism through rulemaking. As a side note, the Maine Office of Tourism currently administers the Maine Tourism Marketing Partnership Program (MTMPP), which provides marketing funding to Maine’s eight designated tourism regions, two special events, and targeted tourism marketing efforts within the state. More information about these grants may be found at the following site: https://visitmaine.com/mtmpp/.
A public hearing on the bill will be held on Wednesday, April 19th before the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, beginning at 1 pm.
Sunday Hunting: On Tuesday, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee held work sessions on six separate bills proposing to lift the ban on Sunday hunting. Eleven states have limitations on Sunday hunting; Maine is one of only four states that prohibits Sunday hunting altogether. Below are brief summaries of the six bills worked on the Committee.
LD 61 – allows licensed hunters to hunt wild birds on Sundays with a shotgun
LD 109 – allows hunting on Sundays on private property with the permission of the landowner
LD 189 – allows hunting wild birds on Sunday in Aroostook County and in unorganized townships in ten other counties
LD 424 – authorizes the IF&W Commissioner to allow hunting on Sunday and to allow hunting on 5 Sundays for the respective hunting seasons for bear, moose, deer and wild turkey in coastal wildlife management areas on public land and private land of 5 acres or more with the landowner’s permission
LD 485 – allows Sunday hunting for migratory game birds
LD 694 – allows Sunday hunting during the regular deer hunting rifle season on property that is located in a municipality, a plantation or the unorganized territory of a county that has successfully petitioned Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to allow hunting on Sunday as long as the person has obtained and is carrying the property owner’s written consent to hunt with a map of the property
For those advocating for changes to Maine’s Sunday hunting ban, the prospects don’t look good. Although it was not unanimous, the Committee voted overwhelmingly to reject all six proposals.
Beach-cast Seaweed Management: The Environment and Natural Resources Committee worked on legislation last week proposing to allow municipalities to remove beach-cast seaweed without having to obtain a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection after large storms or tides have deposited large amounts of beach-cast seaweed. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Lydia Blume of York, stressed during her testimony that the amount of cast seaweed on certain beaches has increased dramatically in recent years, leading to an odor and appearance problem that can impact tourism. She proposed communities be allowed one opportunity between May and September to clean excess seaweed from a beach in the aftermath of a catastrophic event without a permit.
The Department testified that it currently allows specific municipalities such as Old Orchard Beach, Scarborough, and Biddeford to remove seaweed from public beaches under a Permit by Rule (PBR) provided the seaweed is free of litter, composted, and returned to the system. This method is good for the dune system, the wildlife habitat and a favorable environmental option over landfilling. The Department supports expedited seaweed removal in the relatively rare instances where it becomes a threat to public health.
Although the Committee voted unanimously “ought not to pass”, the committee is requesting of DEP to take all necessary action, including, if necessary, amending its PBR rules, to ensure that municipalities are able to, in a short period of time, receive authorization to remove large amounts of seaweed deposited within a coastal sand dune system as a result of a large storm or tidal event. The Department may only need to slightly adjust its current PBR rules to preapprove municipalities for a PBR for removal of seaweed consistent with a beach management agreement so that they could receive authorization to proceed within a day or two of notification to DEP.
Commercial Sporting Camps on Public Reserved Lands: Finally, Rep. Russell Black of Wilton has introduced a bill aimed at supporting tourism on public reserved lands by leasing sites to commercial sporting camps.
LD 1126 provides that the Director of the Bureau of Parks and Lands may lease observation stands and shelters and convey trail easements on public lands for private use, in addition to campsites, garages and other structures that currently may be leased. The director must lease up to one observation stand or shelter and convey up to a mile of trail easement for each lodging room at a commercial sporting camp. The site location and trail easement must be as requested by the commercial sporting camp owner unless the director determines the location is inconsistent with other uses of the public reserved land or with applicable laws or rules.
A public hearing for the bill has been scheduled for April 20th at 1 pm before the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee.
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