MILLINOCKET, Maine — When he heard that a Cape Elizabeth state senator had organized a citizens group to advocate for a 70,000-acre national park proposed by businesswoman and environmentalist Roxanne Quimby because a park would create jobs, Town Councilor Michael Madore immediately thought of a counterproposal, he says.
“I will support a feasibility study as soon as we put a nuclear power plant in Cape Elizabeth,” said Madore, who opposes Quimby’s plan. “Hey, it’s jobs, and it wouldn’t be just seasonal tourist jobs. I am sure Cape Elizabeth would love it and I am surprised she hasn’t proposed that already.”
Though speaking facetiously, Madore said he had a serious point.
“It is real easy to do what she [Sen. Cynthia Dill] has done when the impact of something isn’t something you will directly feel,” Madore said. “Win, lose or draw, it will not affect Ms. Dill or her constituency or anybody in that area one way or the other.”
Others opposed to Quimby’s national park proposal, and a proposal to have the National Park Service conduct a feasibility study of her plan, said they doubted Dill’s group would have much of an impact upon the ongoing debate.
They criticized Dill for accepting a $12,000 political action committee contribution from Quimby last summer and for directing $5,000 from her PAC to the park group. Dill said the contributions came after her vote, that she genuinely believes a park would be good for Maine, and will abstain from voting on other park issues.
For Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, who opposes Quimby’s initiative, the debate over the park and the groups involved centers upon numbers. Dill’s group might have 1,800 members and have collected 2,500 signatures, but the Maine Snowmobile Association and Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine each have tens of thousands more, and they oppose the park, Conlogue said.
“This is just the same old group of [pro-park] people under a different name,” Conlogue said Saturday.
Conlogue said he also found “arrogant” a Cape Elizabeth state senator injecting herself into what he thought was a northern Maine affair.
“We don’t interfere in the business of the people of Cape Elizabeth or South Portland or Portland,” Conlogue said. “They think [they] can impose their view on us for our own good. Well, it is not for our own good.”
Dill predicted Conlogue’s objection. She has said that when she formed the group, she expected critics to view her as an outsider, but that a national park’s possible formation is a statewide issue. Northern Mainers don’t seem to mind when state money is used to help facilitate their economy, such as when the Legislature voted to assume ownership of the Dolby landfill, a key component of the revitalization of the Katahdin region’s two paper mills, Dill said.
Conlogue and state Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, believe that Quimby’s plan is a dead issue. Thomas objected to Dill’s claim that a state resolution opposing the creation of a national park came without legislators being fully aware of what they were voting on.
“We take votes every day. I didn’t think that was rammed through. It is just that her position is unpopular,” Thomas said of Dill. “What makes anybody think that this is going anywhere? Why take it seriously? It [Dill’s group] is such a small group of people.”
But Conlogue doubted the issue would die. Quimby, he said, has made the issue far too personal, and invested far too much money in it.
“It’s going to take a long, long time,” Conlogue said, “for this to go away.”