MILLINOCKET, Maine — Environmentalist and conservationist Roxanne Quimby’s controversial proposal to donate about 70,000 acres she owns adjoining Baxter State Park to a national park looks to be an issue of some import in the coming town elections.
Town Council candidate Charles Cirame said that part of his platform involves support of a feasibility study of Quimby’s plan.
“I honestly believe that the Town Council is closing the town to opportunities that could be very beneficial,” the 59-year-old retired paper mill worker said Saturday of the council’s vote to oppose the park and a feasibility study of it.
“I support small business and I find it embarrassing that the Town Council has chosen to appear to be in opposition to downtown development and for doing what I saw as chastising the Chamber of Commerce for having an opinion,” Cirame added.
Councilors objected to the Katahdin Region Chamber of Chamber and downtown business association issuing statements of support for the park and later opted to cut funding to the association, citing its apparently beginning to seek private funding and its vehement disagreement with the council’s stance. The seven-member council unanimously opposes Quimby’s plan and a study of it after meeting to discuss it several times.
Cirame is among four candidates for council. Town Councilors Michael Madore and John Raymond have opposed the park and are running for their own three-year seats. Councilor David Cyr, another park opponent, has opted not to run, meaning that unless a write-in candidate upsets the field, Cirame or fourth candidate Gilda Stratton would be elected on Nov. 8.
Cyr was the council’s leading candidate in last year’s election. The candidates’ deadline for filing to make the November ballot elapsed Friday.
Stratton’s position on the issue could not be determined Saturday. She and Raymond did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Five candidates are running for two 3-year seats Millinocket School Committee, including incumbent Kevin Gregory. The others include Eric Buckingham, Jr., Matthew Farrington, Timothy Smyth and Warren Steward.
Committee incumbent and former Chairman Thomas Malcolm declined to run for re-election after more than a decade on the board.
Among the most passionate of those opposed to Quimby’s plan, Madore said he hoped it would not be a big issue in the campaign. Even if Stratton favors it and she and Cirame get elected, the anti-park contingent would still hold a 5-2 majority.
Madore plans to remain opposed to the park and said that the council has supported several things that portend economic growth. They include:
• The sale of the Katahdin Avenue paper mill to Cate Street Capital, an energy investor from Portsmouth, N.H.
• A downtown recreation and community trail along Millinocket Stream and near Stearns High School that will be named after U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.
• A nearly 25-mile multiuse recreational trail that, when finished, will connect the town’s snowmobile club to a statewide ATV network and, presumably, several million dollars annually of tourism.
• A downtown health care center that has been under construction for most of the summer.
• Natural gas pipelines that Cate Street will use. Due to be built in the next two or three years, they could become a cornerstone for economic development to the Katahdin region, Madore said.
“Each one is a spoke in the wheel,” Madore said. “Is Millinocket ever going be a place where you will see 4,000 jobs? Probably not, but if all these things intertwine, you will see a very revitalized area. I think people have not seen the best of Millinocket yet.”