ECO-ECONOMICS

How do recreational activities affect the environment?
The economy?

Professor Athearn discusses economics with a student
Professor Kevin Athearn discusses economics with a student in nearby Cutler.

All along the coast of Maine businesses depend on the region’s unique environment to attract customers and to provide the backdrop for adventure tourism, eco-tourism, and family recreation. Maine’s more remote coastal communities have a long tradition as recreation and leisure destinations. During the Gilded Age families from the cities of the Northeast escaped to the Maine coast by steamer or rail. As the automobile gained popularity, coastal Maine became more accessible. More visitors, of course, have meant more impact on this unique environment.

How do we balance issues such as access vs. protection, or development vs. sustainable local resource-based industries? How do we keep people from turning unique environments into the very sort of developed communities from which they sought escape? These are the types of questions we ask.

Our business, recreation management, economics, and marketing courses examine these issues through the lens of Environmental Liberal Arts. It’s an interdisciplinary approach, with faculty members from the sciences, humanities, and social sciences teaming up to work with students in the classroom, in the lab, and in the field.

Environmental Education

UMM’s courses in environmental recreation combine recreation courses that specifically focus on human interaction with the environment with environmental studies courses.  Core courses include Outdoor Recreation I, Leadership & Group Dynamics, Recreation Behavior and the Environment, Natural Resource Ecology, and Environmental Issues. In addition, students take a mixture of skills courses such as river canoeing, sailing, field ornithology, and GPS; and natural history courses such as trees and wildflowers, local marine life, eco-tourism, and oceanography. Students in the Environmental Recreation and Tourism Management major can specialize in environmental recreation.

Community and Cooperative Education

Getting out of the classroom and into the outdoors means getting into the local community—meeting and working with the region’s businesses, organizations and government agencies. UMM’s Cooperative Education (COOP) program gives students college credit for course-relevant work experience. Opportunities include jobs at summer camps, guiding services, resorts, theme parks, national and state parks, resource protection agencies, youth service agencies, and many other organizations.

Students kayak along the Maine coast
Students in the Environmental Recreation & Tourism Management program kayak along the Maine coast.

Most students do their COOP experiences during the summer, but others take a semester away and travel to complete their work experience. UMM students have traveled to Germany, Australia, Florida, Alaska and all places in between. Closer to campus, students have recently taken positions at Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and Acadia National Park.

“I had the opportunity to supervise the COOPs this summer,” says Andrea Ednie. “I really enjoyed seeing our students in action. This year included several different types of camps (conservation camps, a camp for students with disabilities), students working in the tourism industry (one worked aboard the Margaret Todd—a schooner out of Bar Harbor), and students working in the land conservation field (two students working as island stewards for the Maine Coast Heritage Trust—this one was particularly cool!).”

All recreation and tourism courses include some degree of community outreach. For the Program Planning class, students work as a group to plan, organize, and run the
East River Challenge, a statewide public canoe and kayak Class III whitewater race in nearby East Machias. The competitors include some of the top paddlers in the state.

 
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