Ecotourism in Vacationland : Shoreline Development & Economic Inclusion on the Southern Maine Coastline


A regional model of year round Maine homes on the coastline.

Thesis Statement

The tourist economy in Maine, while profitable, has been a catalyst for the removal of local communities on the coast through the privatization of ecosystem services. Inclusive master planning that reconnects Maine’s coastline to its upland areas in the southern beach region will restore a lost  local and working class identity. This proposal enables year-round and flexible programming and stewardship of the natural environment, and challenges the current model of commodification of a landscape and its people. Furthermore, celebration of the right of way to ecological systems and development of supporting markets for both the working and playing communities of the vacation landscape benefits the modernization of the Maine identity and diversification of its labor force. Maine’s economy in the past relied heavily on timber harvest and manufacturing for paper, an industry that existed within the arcadian image. In the late-1970’s Maine pivoted toward a tourism, hospitality and real estate centric system. A now near 11.5 billion dollar industry that operates only six months out of the year. As a result Maine density has moved to an aging and unaffordable southern coastlines with relatively little economic activity generated in the center or northern areas of the state. Out-of-state ownership has led to part-time communities and the polarization of the working and leisure populations. Southern Coastal towns like York, Kennebunk, and Ogunquit are unable to execute comprehensive master planning that seeks to stabilize year-round communities in the face of  annual winter abandonment. The beach community of Wells is one such center for tourism where coexistence between the two communities' use of the surrounding natural and built environments would create a model of holism in a seasonal city typology.

Tertiary strategies that work in tandem with architectural intervention to unbind the privatization of public resources are coastal devaluation models, creation of conservation easements, and mixed use zoning. Additionally, coastal categorization as vulnerable to climate change and past developmental negligence limit the use of a landscape and should be challenged by building more responsibility and with appropriate materiality. The architect’s role in the seasonal city is to facilitate the relationship between the people who use the built environment and instances of shared experience to nature for all. The institution of perpendicular community programming repairs the delamination of the Maine coastline and restoration of agency on the shore for both the tourists and the working class.





A diagram of wealth distribution throughout the state of Maine



A diagram of age distribution throughout the state of Maine.



A map of road networks through the state of Maine over time.



A national diagram of percent out-of-state ownership of homes in the United States state by state



A graph of Well, Maine's Stable vs. Migratory population over time



A diagram of civic architectures role in different population densities.



A map of housing lots illustrated for out-of-state and local ownership comparison.




A map of coastal Wells existing program.


A regional model of the Wells, Coastline


Ecotourism more generally can be defined as tourism that supports the conservation of a threatened environment. The threat to many coastal environments is the privatization and preservation that hinders a connection to nature for its residents. How can models of sustainable tourism be applied to developed country’s subrural landscapes? Additionally, questions of modernization and a diversified economy drove this proposal. How can heritage and access to modern industry not compete with one another and create opportunity for all levels of income to live on the coast. Lastly, what are models of shared ownership of ecological spaces for both livelihood and leisure? Can the future of shoreline development embody a conservation easement as the basis of design for all?


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