Quimby national park effort featured in new video

Posted Oct. 21, 2011, at 9:04 p.m.
Kathy Johnson (left) North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine talks with Roxanne Quimby before Thursday evening's National Park Service feasibility study meeting at Schenck High School in East Millinocket.
Kathy Johnson (left) North Woods Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine talks with Roxanne Quimby before Thursday evening's National Park Service feasibility study meeting at Schenck High School in East Millinocket.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Those who want the National Park Service to study the feasibility of environmentalist Roxanne Quimby’s proposed national park have a new tool: An approximately 15-minute video illustrating the land Quimby hopes to give to the park service in 2016.

Making an informal debut during a National Park Regional Citizen Evaluation Committee meeting at Schenck High School on Thursday, the video features professional narration, what could be the first widely disseminated still and moving images of the land, and excerpts from meetings held in Medway and Millinocket.

Its interview segments include Quimby, Katahdin region businessman Rick LeVasseur, snowmobile trail pioneer Brian Wiley, Medway Selectman David Dickey and committee members discussing the park proposal and why they think a feasibility study is necessary.

Committee co-chairman Bruce Cox of Medway released a DVD of the video to the Bangor Daily News after the meeting.

“It is important for people studying this issue to get the right information and the facts,” Cox said. “We are all about getting the right information out there.”

Quimby has said she hopes to give 70,000 acres adjacent to Baxter State Park to the park service in 2016, that agency’s 100th birthday. She would create another 30,000-acre parcel for traditional recreation and sustainable forestry, uses that would be denied in the park.

A $40 million endowment Quimby would provide, including $20 million she hopes to raise with a national campaign, will cover park maintenance and operation costs, she has said.

The video lacks any detailed representation of park opponents or their views that a national park would threaten the Katahdin region forest products industries or represent an unwanted and harmful federal encroachment onto state and local authority.

Park and feasibility study supporters believe that a park would help, not hurt, the region’s industries and that federal authorities would be guided by local residents. More than a dozen organizations, including the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, have declared their support of a feasibility study.

The video mentions those who support the park or a feasibility study of it, but says nothing about the opposition or skepticism posed by U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, R-Maine, the state legislature, Gov. Paul LePage, the Millinocket Town Council, Maine Snowmobile Association, and other organizations.

Nor does it mention how divisive the issue has been to the Katahdin region.

The video contains mostly aerial views of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, including the Oxbow, Grand Pitch, Haskell Deadwater, Trout Brook Mountain and the international Appalachian Trail that runs through Quimby’s land.

As narrator of the section illustrating the land, LeVasseur said he hoped people would agree that the imagery shows that the land is suitable for a national park.

“If in fact a national park were to be established, it would be a huge economic boon to the Katahdin region,” LeVasseur said in the video.

But that boon would probably not come in 2016, Quimby has said. She has estimated that it would take several years for the park to draw traffic commensurate to that of Acadia National Park — if the National Park Service actually does a feasibility study and finds the land suitable material.

About 50 percent of all studied lands are found suitable, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said during a visit to Millinocket in August.

A park service feasibility study would take years and cost the government about $250,000. Salazar could order one, but such studies are typically requested by members of a state’s federal delegation, park service officials said.

Snowe and Millinocket town leaders have suggested a more comprehensive study be done by another federal agency of which a park would be a small part.

The video also contains an error: It lists Quimby’s possible donation as 70,000 acres, when during Thursday’s meeting, Quimby said that she owns 59,188 acres.

Cox said he and committee members hope to give more DVDs to residents and that as of Thursday, had collected about 800 signatures for a petition supporting a feasibility study.

Quimby and Dan O’Leary, chief executive officer of Roxanne Quimby Foundations, did not respond to email requests for comment Friday.

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