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BikeMaine cycling to Aroostook

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The annual week long BikeMaine bicycle tour has the potential to have an economic impact to rival biathlon events and is coming to The County next year, according to organizers.

Hosted by the non-profit Bicycle Coalition of Maine, which boasts a membership of more than 5,000, BikeMaine has toured different sections of the state each of the last five years to promote the people and culture of each area, all while having a significant economic impact.

“This 2018 will be our 6th BikeMaine event, and our goal is to travel to a different part of the state every year,” said BikeMaine Director Zach Schmesser. “This year we are coming to Aroostook County, that is definitely going to happen, Sept. 8 through 15.”

Alain Ouellette, planning and development division director at the Northern Maine Development Commission, which also provides staff support to the Aroostook County Tourism Board, said the board “is thrilled to have nearly 500 bicyclists introduced to the region through BikeMaine.

“Aroostook County can offer a very unique cycling experience. Cyclists can enjoy open space, abundant wildlife, panoramic views, picturesque villages and low vehicle traffic,” he said in a press release. They also can “bike along rivers, forestlands or travel along a state designated scenic highway.”

The Bicycle Coalition is in the process of identifying the communities where riders and volunteers will stay, Schmesser said.

“Those communities are called host communities, and the event will bring 450 riders and approximately 75 volunteers to The County,” he said. “With that, there’s opportunities for folks in Aroostook County to get involved in a number of different ways.”

The coalition works alongside community service organizations like Rotary Clubs or Lions Clubs, Schmesser added. The coalition pays organizations a stipend to help prepare, serve and cleanup meals as well as purchases all food for the event.

“A big emphasis is on local food,” he said. “So one of the ways we recognize we need to put money back in the local community is by purchasing local food.”

Last year, 75 percent of the food purchased by the coalition for the event came from within 75 miles of the tour.

“The other ways we’re able to get economic impact back to the local communities is use local vendors, partners for services, for things like porta-potties, tents, rental cars,” he said.

Figures for the 2016 BikeMaine tour in Washington County showed there was a direct economic impact of $626,000 to the area during the week of the event, Schmesser said.

Throughout the week, riders who visit from all parts of the country are encouraged to explore and celebrate what’s culturally or historically significant in the local area, “which Aroostook County is just rife with,” he said.

“We’re really excited and it’s amazing the response that we’ve gotten from folks in Aroostook County who’ve reached out and want to be involved, and we’ll be announcing the exact communities we’re going to be going to sometime in early February,” he said.

For more information, visit http://ride.bikemaine.org/.

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