EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The school committee will take no position on having a feasibility study done on environmentalist Roxanne Quimby’s proposal to create a 70,000-acre national park next to Baxter State Park, but not willingly.
With very little discussion, committee members voted 2-2 on whether to support a feasibility study, Chairman Robert Leathers said.
“We had no discussion really,” Leathers said. “We had discussed it informally before and nobody really discussed it tonight so when the vote was taken it was 2-2.”
Quimby hopes to make a gift in 2016 of 70,000 acres she owns next to Baxter to the federal government for a park and has promised to continue to work toward that goal, which she termed a part of her legacy, even if it goes beyond that year.
The Legislature passed a resolve last month opposing Quimby’s initiative, through which she hopes to create a Maine Woods National Park. The park would be nearly twice the size of Acadia National Park.
Sportsmen would get another 30,000 acres north of Dover-Foxcroft to be managed like a state park, with hunting and snowmobiling allowed.
Another 10 million acres of forestland nearby would be unaffected.
The initiative’s opponents, which include several Millinocket Town Council members, fear that it would be the death knell to the Katahdin region’s forest products industries. They portrayed the National Park Service as staggered by debt and unable to care for the parks it has, and say tourism jobs offer low wages.
Millinocket’s council is due to address the question of a feasibility study, and whether to oppose the national park plan with a resolve, at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Proponents say a park would be an economic lifeline to the region, bringing in hundreds of thousands more tourists than does Baxter, without threatening the area’s traditional industries.