BANGOR, Maine — The chance Tuesday night to help shape the next version of the Baxter State Park Management Plan drew about 40 people to the Bangor Public Library.
Though participants came from many walks of life and age groups, the one thing they had in common was their love for the park, which consists of 28 parcels purchased over three decades by former Gov. Percival Baxter.
Thanks to Baxter’s foresight, the park now offers almost 210,000 acres that includes Mount Katahdin, numerous lakes and streams, and 218 miles of trail, park Director Jensen Bissell said. The park’s revised management plan will set rules and strategy for the next decade.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the public was invited to tell park officials what they think should stay the same, what should change and whatever else they had on their minds.
The issues that came up included parking availability -— especially for Maine residents, plans for specific trails, bridges and tote roads, and what the policy should be for disposal of human waste, to name a few.
Participants came from as far as Shin Pond and Manchester and included hikers, campers and anglers, among others. Many said they had been visiting Baxter for decades.
Mike Varney of Glenburn told park officials he would like to see the park’s camping fees, which recently were restructured from a per-person basis to a per-campsite basis, be held to a more affordable level.
He said he started going to Baxter with his parents and continues to go with his wife and three children, ages 7, 8 and 11.
“We go up every year, at least once a year. We usually go up and stay over at Kidney Pond for a week. We enjoy fly-fishing and hiking. We like hiking into I think it’s called Little Niagara Falls,” he said.
“What mostly brought me here is that I didn’t want to see any changes because you kind of feel like you’re going home and just don’t like to see things change, I guess,” he said. “The other thing was keeping it affordable for working Maine families, you know, keeping the costs down,” he said.
“I am very happy with the way it’s run and with all the people that work there. The rangers up there, they’re great. We just love the park a lot,” he said. “I like to see it stay the same for my kids when they get to be my age.”
Jeff Reardon of Manchester said his key interest is resource protection.
“I’m a very serious angler and I’d like to see the park’s fisheries resources stay like they are now, if not improve. It’s really one of the gems of the state in terms of wild trout resources,” said Reardon, who has been a regular visitor for more than 30 years, since he was 6.
“I caught my first trout there and I hope I catch my last trout there,” he said. Asked about his favorite fishing hole, Reardon said, “No, I’m not naming any one. Literally, they’re all equally good. There are dozens of good trout lakes and miles and miles of good trout streams.”
Though some attendees wanted to ensure parts of the park would remain in their wild, undeveloped state, others hoped to see easier access to the park’s many treasures.
Larry Smith of Charleston was among the latter.
Smith, who recently fished Katahdin Lake, said getting there required “a long hike and a hard hike. I have a friend who is semidisabled and he’d love to try it. I think they ought to put some tote roads in to Katahdin Lake and to other places. Baxter wanted people to see the park. At this point, you can only see certain sections of the park.”
Arguably the attendee who was the most knowledgeable about the park was former Director Irvin “Buzz” Caverly, who retired in 2005 after 46 years with the park.
Caverly said he made the trip to Bangor from his home in East Corinth out of his “lifelong interest in the park. This is my 50th anniversary from the first year I started [working] there. I get back every year about half a dozen times.
“I think the park is in good shape,” he said after the session, which went beyond its 7 p.m. scheduled ending time. “I think the meeting was good. And the one thing that came out of that is that we may differ in our opinions, have our debates. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
“The bottom line is that everyone who makes a comment or shows an interest in the park loves the natural resources of the state, loves Baxter park and loves our former governor, Percival P. Baxter,” he said.
The Bangor meeting was the second in a series planned in the coming months. The first, held in Portland, drew about half a dozen people. Another meeting will be held in the Presque Isle area next month, though a date has not yet been set.
Bissell said the revision could take a year or more to complete. Sections will be posted on the park’s website, baxterstateparkauthority.com, for public review as they are completed.