Mattawamkeag to open wilderness park next week

Posted May 17, 2011, at 7:40 p.m.

MATTAWAMKEAG, Maine — The Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park will open for another year next week with yet another new set of managers, officials said Tuesday.

The park’s 36th season will commence on May 27 and its campground will remain open until October, said John Whitehouse, Wilderness Park Advisory Board chairman and a former town selectman. Residents Jim and Sue Thomson, both veteran park visitors — Jim has visited the park regularly for 33 years, Sue for 15 — will be its managers, paying a lease to the town for the park and presumably netting a profit after that and all other expenses are paid.

Both are very familiar with park operations, Whitehouse said.

They succeed Chris Bilik-Franklin and his wife, Midiana, Washington state residents who managed the park last year and who succeeded Peter and Doris Born, who nearly doubled the park’s revenues when they ran it between 2007 and 2009. Whitehouse said he understood why the park management “has been pretty much of a turnover” for most of the last 10 years, with managers staying usually for a year or two before moving on.

“It is quite an undertaking to do it,” Whitehouse said Tuesday of managing the park. “I don’t think a lot of people understand that when they take the job on. We try to be very clear that at times it can almost be a 24-7 job. I don’t think people fully appreciate it when they jump into it. It is almost fully into summer before they see how demanding the job can be.”

Built in 1974, the park first was leased and run by Penobscot County, then by the Friends of the Wilderness Park, a private organization, until 1996. The town has operated it since. Run as a nonprofit organization, the park draws about 250 campers annually.

The park features many outdoor activities, including fishing in the Mattawamkeag River, 15 miles of hiking trails and several more miles of ATV trails. Of the park’s 50 camping sites, including 11 Adirondack shelters, 11 camping sites have electricity and water, and six have electricity, water and sewer.

The long winter and especially rainy spring delayed the work done in preparation for the opening, Whitehouse said. One major improvement this year is the hiring of a private contractor to grade the park’s dirt access road twice a year.

“The frost just came out of the road a few weeks ago,” Whitehouse said. “There’s still a major washout there to be taken care of.”

The Wilderness Park Advisory Board will sponsor the 15th annual Wilderness Park Barbecue on Saturday, Aug. 6. The barbecue will be held at the pavilion behind the recreation hall, which is available to be rented by groups or individuals for special events. It is 40 feet wide and 70 feet long, plenty of room for a reunion, reception, retreat or other event. A commercial-grade gas grill can be rented as well.

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Fast Facts

WHO: Mattawamkeag Wilderness Park Campground

WHAT: A town-owned campground with 50 campsites

WHERE: Wilderness Park Road, two miles east of U.S. Route 2, in Mattawamkeag

WHEN: Opening May 27 until October

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO MAKE RESERVATIONS: Visit mwpark.com or telephone 207-290-0205 or 888-724-2465.

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