By Sarah Medina of Seven Islands, member of the CGPZ Steering Committee
The Aroostook Community Guided Planning and Zoning (CGPZ) effort is in the information-gathering phase.
At the committee’s December meeting, Bob Dorsey, president of the Aroostook Partnership for Progress, presented very interesting information on the economic challenges and priorities of the County. Despite challenges, Dorsey noted natural resource-based forest products and agriculture are two sectors of potential growth.
In January, Dana Saucier from the Forestry Working group of Mobilize Northern Maine talked about opportunities, difficulties and barriers to the forest products industry in Aroostook County.
Difficulties that Saucier cited include:
- Energy costs (lack of connection to NEPOOL, energy regulatory issues)
- The image of natural resources (working landscape vs. place of spiritual renewal; conservation vs. preservation. Preservation has a greater voice in public opinion.)
- Poor image of logging and forestry work
- Diminishing 18-44 age work group (less than 30 percent in that bracket is unsustainable; Aroostook is currently 27 percent).
Opportunities cited include:
- Irving’s redevelopment of the Pinkham mill site
- Ecoshel relocating to the former sawmill on Levesque Mill Road in Ashland
- Two other (unnamed) manufacturing possibilities
- Deep water ports in Maine, closest to European markets, but need infrastructure upgrades.
- Siting mills requires a fiber source, transportation, off-road linkages, and (fair, predictable) regulatory process. Route 11 corridor was identified as potential location.
Speakers are being contacted for the next meetings to address agriculture (what is going on now, future plans, regulatory impediments) and “lessons learned” regarding process from other planning efforts (Rangeley Plan, concept plans.)
Meetings were changed to the third Wednesday of each month, except for the next meeting on Tuesday, February 11. They are typically from 9 a.m. to 11 or 11:30 a.m. at Northern Maine Development Commission in Caribou. The public is welcome to attend or submit written comments and information. Regional public meetings will be held also. To get on the mailing list contact Jay Kamm. Visit the CGPZ web page for more information.