MILLINOCKET, Maine – Town Manager Eugene Conlogue will ask Penobscot County leaders to oppose Roxanne Quimby’s proposed national park, even as the philanthropist’s son says he continues to search for the best use of her 70,000 acres.
Speaking as a prominent member of the Maine Woods Coalition, Conlogue will address the Penobscot County Board of Commissioners at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday, the meeting agenda states. According to the agenda listing, Conlogue wants to discuss preventing the creation of a “national park, monument or federal presence in Penobscot County.”
Conlogue and County Administrator Bill Collins did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on Friday.
Town leaders and the coalition have both opposed Quimby’s proposal to give about 70,000 acres she owns or will own to the National Park Service for a national park in 2016 and to create another 30,000-acre area for motorized recreational usage.
Park supporters have said that a study would be the best means of determining the suitability of Quimby’s land for a park. A park could provide a vast new revenue stream for the economically depressed region, they say. A $40 million endowment Quimby would provide, including $20 million she hopes to raise with a national campaign, would cover park maintenance and operation costs, Quimby has said.
Opponents challenge the credibility of a national park study and statements by Quimby and federal officials that a park would not grow beyond 70,000 acres. They say federal authority would infringe upon local government and threaten the state’s forest products industry.
U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine; U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-East Millinocket; Gov. Paul LePage; the Maine Legislature; and the towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket are among the individuals and entities opposing the park plan and a park study.
More than a dozen community, business and environmental groups ― including several snowmobile clubs, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and Millinocket’s downtown business association ― have publicly supported a feasibility study. The Medway Board of Selectmen remains the only governmental body to do so. One poll claimed that a sampling of Mainers indicated that 60 percent of residents statewide supported a park feasibility study.
The park movement has appeared to be dormant since late last year, but Quimby has said she will pursue her ambition for decades if she has to, and her son, Lucas St. Clair, said the idea is far from dead.
The president of the board of directors of the Quimby Family Foundation, St. Clair said he at this point is introducing himself to people in the area and statewide to determine the best use for the 70,000 acres Quimby and the association own or plan to own. He has met informally with several individuals and groups, he said.
One immediate goal: to make clear that the 70,000-acre parcel and plans for it have nothing to do with the 3.2-million acre parcel and national park plans for that land proposed by another pro-park group years ago, he said.
“We are not talking about land we don’t own,” St. Clair said Friday. “Our foundation does not have the resources to expand [the land it owns] and we are not looking to expand.”
St. Clair said he is learning a great deal and expects no park development activity to occur this summer beyond his informal meetings with organizations and individuals.
“We are looking to get as much input as we can,” he said.