MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders had harsh words for Roxanne Quimby on Thursday and approved pursuing, with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, an economic development assessment of the Katahdin region that could counter a feasibility study of Quimby’s proposed national park.
The new proposal arose from a discussion in August by Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, Town Council Chairman John Davis and a Snowe representative about their objections to a National Park Service study of Quimby’s proposal. The representative said Snowe would support an assessment, perhaps by the federal Economic Development Administration, of all economic sectors of East Millinocket, Medway, Millinocket, Mount Chase, Patten, Sherman, Stacyville and Penobscot County’s portion of the Unorganized Territory.
The analysis will not occur unless enough of the other communities agree to it. Millinocket leaders will begin contacting them shortly. The EDA’s study would also include an examination of a park’s economic viability but would examine economic factors well beyond that, Conlogue said.
“The best analogy I could offer for that,” Conlogue said, “would be to say that the [EDA] park study would be like a chapter within a book.”
The proposed National Park Service feasibility study has been as controversial as any aspect of Quimby’s plan to give 70,000 acres she owns or will own to the park service in 2016 and to create another 30,000-acre area for motorized recreational usage.
Park supporters have said that a study would be the best means of determining the suitability of Quimby’s land for a park. A park could provide a vast new revenue stream for the economically depressed region, they say.
Opponents challenge the credibility of a national park study and statements by Quimby and federal officials that a park would not grow beyond 70,000 acres. They say federal authority would infringe upon local government and threaten the state’s forest products industry.
During Thursday’s meeting, Conlogue said in a lengthy statement that U.S. Environmental Protection Administration regulations allow federal land managers to regulate aspects of all industrial activities within a 62½-mile radius of a national park and to legally challenge industry activity beyond that if it interferes with a park’s scenic qualities.
A national park on Quimby’s land, he said, would be about 25 miles from the region’s two paper mills.
Conlogue and councilors at Thursday’s meeting also unanimously condemned Quimby’s recent comments to forbes.com describing Maine as “a welfare state.”
“That is a blatantly false claim that is something that should infuriate [all Mainers]. Maine has, indisputably, some of the best workers in the world. That ethic has not changed,” Conlogue said.
“We have the most aged population in the country. … I believe we have one of the highest adult obesity rates in New England,” Quimby was quoted as saying in the forbes.com article. “We have … oxycontin abuse … [and] Maine’s the largest net receiver of Federal funds, even though we supposedly hate the Feds … it’s a welfare state.”
The article completely ignores anti-park arguments and Quimby’s statements about Mainers “denigrate the people of the state of Maine,” Conlogue said. “There is not a state in the country that does not have every one of those [health] issues.”
Councilor Jimmy Busque called Quimby “the enemy of the North Woods,” while Councilor Michael Madore said that “every time she opens her mouth, she does more good for our side than theirs.”
“She has a great deal of disdain for the people of Maine,” Madore added.
“I can’t understand why someone who needs the support of the people of Maine would say what she has,” Davis said. “To me, it’s like throwing a banana cream pie in your own face.”
Her comments come at an especially bad time, Busque said, referring to the East Millinocket paper mill, which was due to start its boiler on Friday.
Quimby did not immediately respond to an email request for comment on Friday.