MILLINOCKET, Maine — Roxanne Quimby, a conservation philanthropist who wants to donate more than 70,000 acres she owns next to Baxter State Park to establish a national park, met face to face Thursday with more than 100 park supporters and opponents.
Quimby told residents she wanted all the public and not just a few to enjoy her property.
In a rare public appearance to discuss her land holdings, Quimby came to the Northern Maine Timber Cruisers Clubhouse in Millinocket and shared her vision for giving land west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River to the federal government for the National Park Service’s birthday in 2016. She also wants to donate land to widen the Appalachian Trail corridor.
“I was very surprised that there was so much pushback and resistance to this idea” of a national park, Quimby said of her proposal.
Some of that resistance became apparent Thursday when Quimby was questioned about public access, wood harvesting and camp leases.
Quimby told the audience she reached out five years ago to representatives of hunting, fishing and snowmobiling interests to form a working group to identify the paramount needs and interests of people in the Katahdin area, to get beyond the media soundbites and to find a compromise. A result of those early discussions was a protected snowmobile corridor of about 80 miles in the Millinocket area, she said.
“I think that what we’re here today to show is that only through really good discussion and good cooperation can we identify the bottom line needs of all parties and then work for a solution,” Quimby said.
Appointed last year to the National Park Foundation board of directors, Quimby also envisions giving land she owns in the Sebec-Barnard area to Native Americans and other land holdings in the area to Peaks Kinney State Park as a backcountry annex for recreation.
In the midst of her Katahdin area holdings, Quimby said she planned to open a writer’s retreat at Lunksoos Camps on the East Branch of the Penobscot River. The camps, located 10 miles west of Sherman Mills, are her latest acquisition. They would be dedicated to writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau made several treks through the North Maine Woods in the mid-1800s and wrote about his travels.
The self-made millionaire who developed Burt’s Bees, an eco-friendly line of beauty and skin products which she sold for about $350 million, purchased her first parcel of land in 2000 through a private foundation she developed, Elliotsville Plantation Inc. She has concentrated her land purchases in Piscataquis County and in the Katahdin area.
The changes that came under her ownership sparked concerns among those who used the properties for hunting, timber harvesting and motorized recreation and who had leases to camps in remote areas.
Quimby said she was upset by some leaseholders who spoke ill of her in the press without first contacting her. She had in fact worked with one lease holder who came to her early and asked what he could do to continue to use the property.
But Quimby also said she wanted her property to be used by all residents, not just a few people who had leases in the past.
Residents also were told that Quimby is creating a wood harvesting plan for her property.