A timber management company is offering to donate one of the last remaining privately owned parcels of land around Katahdin Lake to Baxter State Park.
Five years ago, Baxter State Park officials accepted the deed to roughly 4,000 acres surrounding Katahdin Lake and, in the process, achieved the original vision of the late Gov. Percival Baxter, who had been unable to obtain the lake property for the park he singlehandedly created.
But the 2006 deal did not include two small parcels, or in-holdings, that remained in private hands. Now, the owner of the larger of the two parcels — Huber Resources Corp. of Old Town — wants to give the land to the park free of charge.
“It just seems like the right thing to do for the park and for the people of the state,” said Peter Triandafillou, vice president at Huber Resources, which manages approximately 600,000 acres of timberland in Maine formerly owned by the Huber family. Details of the exact size of the Katahdin Lake property were not available Monday, with estimates varying from 90 to 160 acres.
Triandafillou said it was difficult to put a price on the property, given its remote location and unparalleled view of Mount Katahdin. But he said $1 million wouldn’t be out of the ballpark.
The Baxter State Park Authority is scheduled to vote whether to accept the donation during a meeting in Augusta on Jan. 12.
Jym St. Pierre, a vocal conservation activist who works for RESTORE: The North Woods, first posted an item about the Huber offer on www.maineenvironews.com, a website that he maintains.
St. Pierre called the donation offer “great news” and the Huber land “the most important missing piece of the Katahdin Lake puzzle.” Because the property is undeveloped, few visitors likely realize it is not part of the park already. But St. Pierre pointed out that the parcel includes the lake’s outlet stream as well as a beach with stunning views of Mount Katahdin that inspired famous painter Frederic Edwin Church and many other artists.
“So it is significant particularly because so many people who go to the lake use that part of the property,” St. Pierre said.
Baxter State Park officially annexed the main, 4,000-acre Katahdin Lake parcel back in December 2006 following a heated political battle that, at times, threatened to scuttle the deal. The transaction was part of a complicated, multiparty deal involving the Gardner Land Co., the state, 35,000 acres of timberland and $14 million in private money raised by land conservation groups with the active involvement of Maine officials.
While park users have welcomed the additional land, which features a historic sporting camp, the deal remains controversial among some sportsmen angry that they cannot hunt or trap on the 4,000 acres. An additional 2,000 acres to the north of the parcel that was included in the deal remains open to hunting and trapping.
The latest Huber deal appears unlikely to encounter much opposition, however, given that the land is a gift to the park and is already largely surrounded by park land.
Sherry Huber said the Huber family believes the Katahdin Lake parcel was the first piece of Maine land that her father-in-law purchased in the state. The Hubers would eventually come to own more than a half million acres in the state, becoming one of the state’s largest and better-known timber families.
Huber said she personally became convinced that the undeveloped parcel, which she described as “a beautiful piece of land,” should become part of the park. So when officials from Huber Resources approached family members about donating it to the park, she and others heartily agreed.
“The answer came back loud and clear that we would be supportive of that,” Huber said Monday.
During the past two years, Huber Resources has sold the vast majority of the former Huber lands to Conservation Forestry LLC, a New Hampshire-based investment firm. Huber continues to manage the land for Conservation Forestry, however.
Baxter State Park officials could not be reached for comment Monday.