Whenever millionaire environmentalist Roxanne Quimby has said her proposed North Maine Woods national park wouldn’t grow any larger than 70,000 acres, Andy Young didn’t believe her.
That’s why the 48-year-old Lincolnville general contractor joined Preserve Maine Traditions, an anti-national park group formed last November. It filed U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests with the National Park Service and U.S. Department of the Interior in late January seeking all communication between the federal agencies and Quimby or other park supporters.
Young said he believes the 70,000-acre park is a mere seedling that would eventually grow into a 3.2 million acre park originally proposed by the group RESTORE: The North Woods about 20 years ago.
“There are many of Roxanne Quimby’s park supporters who say, ‘Who could ever be against a park?’ The reality is that this is a change in tactics over 20 years in search of a larger park,” Young said Tuesday. “She doesn’t want to say it out loud — a 3.2 million acre park — so in my mind she is talking about the 70,000-acre park.”
“It is the beginning. It is the seed. This is her attempt to gain a foothold,” Young added. “Just because she has changed the tactics doesn’t mean she has changed the agenda.”
So far, Preserve Maine Traditions’ freedom of information request has netted the group about 30 pages of documents given to the park service by Elliotsville Plantation Inc. in November which outline her proposal in broad terms.
Apart from saying that that the park “may encompass 75,000 acres” — not 70,000 — the proposal pretty closely approximates what Quimby has said all along. The proposal describes the land as adjacent to Baxter State Park and as consisting partly of a 13,000-acre lynx foraging habitat and 4,000 acres “critical for biodiversity conservation,” among other things.
When reached Tuesday night, Quimby, who owns about 59,000 acres, clarified that the national park would be no more than 75,000 acres east of Baxter State Park and west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River. Plus, her Elliotsville Plantation Inc. would set aside additional land for an array of recreational uses not likely to be allowed within the park, she said.
“If a national park is created, EPI will donate an additional 43,000 acres in multiple use areas on lands east of the East Branch Penobscot River and areas west of Brownville Junction near Sebec Lake. Permanent easements would provide for sustainable forestry and public access for hunting, fishing and permanent snowmobile and ATV rights-of-way,” she said in a brief statement.
Quimby’s 30-page proposal calls for a park operation budget of $2.5 million and about 25 park employees. It promises that Quimby would offset that cost with a $40 million endowment she plans to raise and donate, as well as park entrance and use fees.
“Current land ownership would allow auto access to the park’s edge via an EPl-owned right-of-way near Sherman and pedestrian access from the north through Baxter State Park and from the logging roads near Stacyville,” the proposal states. “Additional auto access routes to and within the park are under consideration. The outcome will depend on land ownership and further planning and consultation.”
According to a letter from Quimby dated Nov. 5, Quimby gave Interior Secretary Ken Salazar 406 letters and 3,325 petition signatures supporting a national park feasibility study that the National Park Service would conduct.
Although leaders and voters from East Millinocket and Millinocket have opposed a park, Quimby in her letter described how a “growing alliance of thousands of individuals demonstrates broad support from neighboring communities, including participation by 205 residents of Millinocket, 137 of Medway, and 49 of East Millinocket — the three communities in closest proximity to the proposed national park.”
Young scoffed at that and at National Park Service claims that their only correspondence with Quimby dates from November. The fact that Salazar and other officials visited the Katahdin region in August shows at least some contact predating that, he said.
Young’s group, which claims about 150 members, has its own website, preservemainetraditions.com, and is planning a forum at the Camden Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6. The public is invited.
Several speakers will discuss how the North Woods presently offer a great deal of access to recreationists and forest products industries while supporting Maine’s economy, he said.
Preserve Maine Traditions plans to keep fighting the park proposal, Young said.
“Unless we are there to counter some of that they will continue pressing and pressing,” he said. “Who is against a park? Everybody loves parks, don’t they? Without our story being out there, they would start slowly convincing people.”