MEDWAY, Maine — A citizens committee formed to investigate the feasibility of Roxanne Quimby’s proposal to give to the National Park Service 70,000 acres she owns adjacent to Baxter State Park announced Wednesday that 16 groups support having the park service study the proposal’s feasibility.
George McLaughlin, co-chairman of the National Park Regional Citizen Evaluation Committee, said he was pleased to see the study gain so much support so quickly.
“A feasibility study would provide information that will help Maine residents determine whether a national park is a good idea or not,” McLaughlin said in a statement released Wednesday. “Many folks in the region believe that a national park would help diversify and build our lagging economy.”
However, the groups have not necessarily reached a position on whether they support a park, only a feasibility study, committee members said.
The list the committee provided has several new names among those who already had publicly declared support for a study. They include the Sierra Club, Environment Maine, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, West Branch Choppers and the East Branch Sno-Rovers, Jo Mary, Twin Pines and Ebeemee snowmobile clubs.
The Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Medway Board of Selectmen, Medway School Committee and the Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee declared their support months ago. The list also includes Gerald Pelletier Inc. and the Pelletier family’s subsidiaries as well as Medway residents, based on a town meeting vote. About 70 people attended a town meeting this summer at Medway Middle School in which residents voted 46-6 to support a study.
All study supporters believe it would indicate whether a park could work for the Katahdin region and northern Maine by diversifying an economy in a needed way.
Park opponents have expressed fears that the park would undermine the state’s forest products industries and extend federal authority into northern Maine in an unneeded and unwanted way. Supporters believe that a park could co-exist well with the forest products industry.
Those who oppose or who say they are skeptical of a park include U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, Gov. Paul LePage, Millinocket’s Town Council, the Maine Snowmobile Association and the Maine State Legislature.
Snowmobile association members also have complained that Quimby’s workers introduced an element of coercion into their campaign by at least implying to several Katahdin region snowmobile clubs that they would lose access to snowmobile trails on her land unless they wrote letters supporting the park.
Committee members outlined two types of study. A reconnaissance study, or preliminary resource assessment, would be ordered by the secretary of the interior, take a few months, and cost about $25,000, and a special resources study, a comprehensive examination of a potential national park site that would take years and cost much more.
The committee will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at Schenck High School in East Millinocket at which Quimby and a retired National Park Service official will answer questions.