Portland-area events slated to celebrate 50th anniversary of Baxter State Park land gift

A hiker makes his way across the Knife Edge, a narrow serrated ridge leading to the summit of Mount Katahdin, during the summer of 2006.
Robert F. Bukaty | AP
A hiker makes his way across the Knife Edge, a narrow serrated ridge leading to the summit of Mount Katahdin, during the summer of 2006.
Posted June 21, 2012, at 4:24 p.m.
Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell (right) talks with hikers Larry Donoghue (left) and Michael Saporito, both of Massachusetts, who were crossing a road in the Scientific Forest Management Area in September 2009.
Baxter State Park director Jensen Bissell (right) talks with hikers Larry Donoghue (left) and Michael Saporito, both of Massachusetts, who were crossing a road in the Scientific Forest Management Area in September 2009. Buy Photo

PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Historical Society and Friends of Baxter State Park have planned a day of activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of former Gov. Percival Baxter’s final land gift to create the park.

The events listed as part of Governor Baxter Day will largely take place in greater Portland on Aug. 22. Although Baxter State Park is miles away in Piscataquis County, Percival Baxter was a Portland native.

“Baxter State Park is one of the most popular places in Maine as far as vacationing and recreation,” said Jamie Rice, research librarian with the Maine Historical Society. “Baxter left a significant legacy not only in Portland, but across the state.”

Events throughout the day will include talks by Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell, geologist Walter Anderson, Maine State Historian Earle Shettleworth and Joe Wiegand, who will deliver a tribute to the park while in the character of former president and frequent Maine visitor Theodore Roosevelt.

Baxter acquired the last 7,764 acres of forestland he would donate to the park from the Great Northern Paper Co. on Aug. 6, 1962.

“This acquisition represented the fulfillment of an unstated goal of gifting to the state of Maine a wilderness park of in excess of 200,000 acres,” wrote author and Friends of Baxter State Park historian Howard Whitcomb in an organization announcement of the Aug. 22 celebration. “It also made possible the construction of three miles of new road linking Abol Campground with the newly constructed southern gatehouse just north of Upper and Lower Togue ponds.”

At the time of Baxter’s death in 1969, Baxter State Park was 201,018 acres. Today, after subsequent gifts — including a 143-acre Katahdin Lake property donated by timber company Huber Resources LLC in January — the park is 209,664 acres.

“I think that it’s significant to remind individuals that the preservation or availability of the Maine woods — areas like Baxter State Park — are made possible because of these gifts,” said Rice. “I think that commemorating an anniversary like this not only recognizes the influence of the Baxter family as a whole, but also that people should be mindful that what we do today is important down the road.”

For information and a more complete schedule of Governor Baxter Day events, visit friendsofbaxter.org.

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