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Good morning. This is Governor John Baldacci.

With the summer tourism season in full swing, Maine has been blessed with great weather.

Warm temperatures, blue skies and cool water have brought people to visit.

For the Fourth of July weekend, traffic coming into the State on the Turnpike was up almost 9 percent over last year.

More than 245,000 cars and trucks went through the York Toll Plaza for the holiday weekend.

And the Maine Innkeepers Association reports that they had one of the best weekends in at least two years.

While a lot of folks like to joke about tourists and complain about the traffic on Route 1 during the summertime, tourism remains one of our State’s most important industries.

It helps to bring billions of dollars into the State, and supports about 140,000 jobs.

And while August is typically one of the our busiest tourists months, the growth for four season recreation, including skiing, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, keep people coming to Maine all year round.

In its report, Charting Maine’s Future, The Brookings Institution put it this way:

“As the search for quality places grows in importance, Maine possesses a globally known ‘brand’ built on the image of livable communities, stunning scenery, and great recreational opportunities.”

People come to Maine because it’s a great place to live, work and enjoy the best that life has to offer.

But that hasn’t happened by accident.

Mainers understand what makes our State special, and we’ve been aggressive in our efforts to protect it.

Maine has more than half-a-million acres of State and national parks, including the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park and part of the Appalachian Trail.

There are more than 32,000 miles of rivers and streams that if put together are longer than the Mississippi, Amazon and Nile rivers combined.

And our beautiful coast stretches for more than 5,000 miles and is home to more than 60 lighthouses.

Just this year, the Land for Maine’s Future program helped to protect the Kelley Farm in Bowdoinham, keeping new generations of farmers on the land and providing a good resource for locally grown food and new businesses.

The Land for Maine’s Future also protected more than 1,000 acres around Branch Lake in Ellsworth and permanently secured public access to Higgins Beach in Scarborough.

Working with the Trust for Public Land, the Towns of Ellsworth and Scarborough, Land for Maine’s Future has helped to assure that these important resources remain accessible.

And in June, Maine voters approved $3.5 million dollars to preserve significant historic properties and promote economic revitalization.

It all adds up to make Maine a destination for thousands of visitors every year.

We’ve also made critical advances in helping to make the visit easier and more attractive.

On Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and I announced that grant agreements have been finalized to begin work on the expansion of passenger rail service north of Portland to Brunswick – The Downeaster.

Funded by $35 million dollars from the Recovery Act, the project will put people to work beginning this year and open the Midcoast to passenger rail.

And the expansion is a necessary step to expand passenger service even farther into Maine.

The project is critical for our State, will help our environment, create jobs and will bring more visitors here.

As Secretary LaHood said, travelers will begin to have better options and we’ll be putting people to work on a great project.

While it’s clear that our economy still has a long way to go before it fully recovers from the global recession, we have seen some progress.

And the strong numbers of visitors last weekend and the number of people staying over night are good signs.

But our efforts, supported directly by voters, are making the investments that will put Maine on a stronger economic footing for years to come.

We know that our home has something special to offer – to visitors on vacation and to new businesses looking to grow or relocate.

Our workers are unmatched and our reputation for quality has traveled the world.

Together with our unique cities, picturesque downtowns, pristine lakes and wild rivers, parks and historic sites, beaches, mountains and forests, Maine has what people all over the world are looking for.

And we’re doing what it takes to protect these special places and position our economy for growth.

Thank you for listening and enjoy another great Maine weekend.

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