Pluto is back in orbit at the new state visitor information center in Houlton 

4 weeks ago

HOULTON, Maine – After a nearly two-year hiatus, Pluto, part of the State Solar System Model, is back in orbit at the new Maine Visitor Information Center in Houlton just in time for the upcoming total solar eclipse on April 8.

The solar system model, established by the University of Maine at Presque Isle and northern Maine community, consists of the sun located at UMPI and planets spread out along Route 1 at a scale of 1:93 million, making one mile equal to the distance between Earth and the sun.

There are two Plutos in the model, one in Houlton at the visitor center and one outdoors in Littleton. The two models are in recognition of Pluto’s past status as a planet and its current status, as of 2006, as a dwarf planet.

The new center, located just a tenth of a mile off I-95 on North Street (Route 1) heading toward downtown Houlton in the Houlton Mall, will open its doors on April 1.

“Having a good presence in Aroostook County is super important,” said Tony Cameron, chief executive officer of the Maine Tourism Association. 

In July 2022, the old center closed and the information center was temporarily located in a corner of the County Co-op and Farm Store in downtown Houlton. 

The new 2,200 square foot space at 114 North St. which was once a Sears store, is leased by the Maine Office of Tourism and is operated by the Maine Tourism Association.

“The new location has required minimal renovations and will accommodate more displays than the previously leased 600 square foot space,” said Hannah Collins, deputy director of the Office of Tourism. 

HOULTON, Maine — March 22, 2024 — Maine Office of Tourism Deputy Director Hannah Collins and Regional Partnership Manager with the Maine Tourism Association Sheena McNally are stocking shelves at the new Maine State Visitor Information Center in Houlton. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

They expect about 25,000 annual visitors at the new location based on previous numbers, although the upcoming eclipse might bump those numbers up considerably, said Collins. 

On Friday, Collins and Regional Partnership Manager of the Aroostook County Maine State Visitor Center Sheena McNally were setting up the space with rows and rows of visitor information brochures, maps and other handouts. 

At the April 1 opening, a large cabinet along one wall will feature Maine Made artisan creations, said McNally. 

The center will be staffed seven days a week with professional travel counselors offering information about destinations, accommodations, services, and travel conditions in Maine, she said.

Maps, guides, and other publications are offered free to visitors and travel information is also available through an interactive digital kiosk that can send details and driving directions directly to visitors’ phones. 

The visitor center is currently closed until the April 1 opening. 

This story was updated to include the fact there are two versions of Pluto in the solar system model.