Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 29 : Summer 2016 - Page 55

St. John Valley Cultural Byway: A Self-Guided Tour words by Dona Saucier, photos by Don Raymond Looking for a one-of-a-kind travel expedition this summer? What if there was a self-guided tour you could take in a unique part of Maine, where residents, for the most part, have been referred to throughout travel review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor as friendly, courteous and helpful, that would only cost you gas, lodging and dining (at reasonable prices) for a day or three? The tour itself, an immersion into the Acadian Culture and life in the St. John Valley, would be quite informative and most probably entertaining (there are some really good storytellers in the Valley). The journey, with its vast scenic vistas of hills, forests and fields on a warm summer day and bright stars in the night sky, priceless. The Maine Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byway Program have dedicated an area in northern Aroostook County as the St. John Valley Cultural Byway. They funded the creation and installation of a series of bilingual roadside exhibits (interpretive panels) exploring aspects of life and culture of the area with significant input and assistance of local consultants and residents. Each panel (31 in total) was erected in time for the World Acadian Congress celebrations in 2014. The panels themselves are scattered throughout the St. John Valley, mostly along US Route 1, following the St. John River from Hamlin to Allagash. Those that are not along the river are only within a few miles off this path. The following table lists the topic of each panel and its location starting in Allagash and ending in Hamlin (where the St. John River first becomes the natural border to Canada, to the end of the St. John’s natural border to Canada): Panel Title 1. “Call Me a Moostowner” The Allagash – A Unique Scots-Irish Community 2. Allagash River Drivers & Logging 3. The End of the Line. Access to the outside world began here at the end of the rail line 4. International Border Markings International Boundary Markers & the Shape of Maine 5. Rail Fuels Growth, Cultural Change How railroads affected economic health of the Valley 6. The River Never Divided Us - Ferries When ‘going across’ was like crossing the street 7. One people / Two Countries Location Allagash Historical Society Museum 564 Dickey Road St. Francis Historical Society Museum 1074 Main Street St. John Plantation Community Center & Municipal Office 1774 St. John Road Fort Kent Historical Society Train Station Corner of East Main & Market Streets Riverside Park Entrance (Ferry Mural) 64 East Main Street, Fort Kent America’s First Mile Monument Border Crossing International Bridge, Ft. Kent SUMMER 2016 53