MILLINOCKET, Maine — Environmentalist and millionaire businesswoman Roxanne Quimby should create her own park on the 70,000 acres she wants to donate to the National Park Service to show whether the concept can work, one of her proposal’s leading critics said Friday.
Town Councilor Mike Madore, who spoke out against the park plan at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar at Stearns High School on Thursday, said he worried that Quimby’s refusal to take no for an answer was undermining the political process.
“When you have a governmental chain of command that has stated that there is no governmental support to her proposed park and she simply circumvents the state of Maine to go to the federal government to do an end around, it concerns me,” said Madore, an ed tech at Stearns. “I told one of her people last night that I would hate to have to go ahead and teach a civics class about this.”
“It undermines every check and balance on the state level,” Madore added. “I don’t think she is used to having anybody say no to her.”
Quimby’s spokesman, land manager Mark Leathers, declined to comment on Madore’s statements on Friday.
Meanwhile, the fledgling National Park Regional Citizen Evaluation Committee will hold its first meeting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, to form subcommittees and organize itself, said Bruce Cox, chairman of the Medway Board of Selectmen, who is working on the committee as a private citizen.
The committee’s goal: To work alongside Quimby and take the push for a park feasibility study well beyond the Katahdin region into northern Maine, Cox has said. Residents are invited to attend the meeting, which will be held at Medway Middle School.
No one, Madore said, opposes the idea of Quimby using her park land in whatever legal way she wants, and showing that a park project can work as a private concern might be the best way to sell the concept.
“To a great extent, those of us elected to determine what is in best interests of the area have already spoken,” Madore said.
“The whole thing is, she can do whatever she wants with her property. To have a camping area up there for artists and musicians is good. She has made the financial investment to do that. Nobody said she can’t,” Madore added. “We are saying that we don’t want this land taken off state tax rolls and then have the federal government with all restrictions and rules be in the northern Maine woods.
“She shouldn’t be able to force her will on everybody else,” Madore said. “We have the American way and democracy and yet one person with deep pockets and tunnel vision is forcing her will on the masses. That is not democracy. That is dictatorship.”
Quimby has made it clear that she hopes to make a gift of the land to the federal government in 2016 as part of her legacy as the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, a national line of Earth-friendly personal care products, and that she would continue her efforts until they were successful.
She has not made clear what might stop her quest, saying only that overcoming opposition is a matter of “an educational process,” a term some park opponents find condescending. Quimby has used as an example Percival Baxter, who worked for 32 years assembling the park that bears his name.
Quimby has said that she hopes to establish a visitors’ center on her land and other amenities, but no blueprints of this effort have been publicly revealed, and many basic details of her proposal, such as where its main road might go, remain unclear.
The Medway Board of Selectmen hosted Quimby at a meeting at Medway Middle School on Thursday night a few hours after Salazar held the meeting at Stearns. Quimby discussed her proposal, to give her land adjoining Baxter State Park to the federal government in 2016, before Medway residents voted 46-6 to support a feasibility study of Quimby’s proposal.
Medway residents joined their Board of Selectmen, school committee and several Katahdin region civic and business organizations in supporting a study. Maine’s two Republican senators, the state Legislature, the Millinocket Town Council, Maine Snowmobile Association, Maine Woods Coalition and the Millinocket Fin and Feather Club oppose or are skeptical about Quimby’s plan.