TOWNSHIP 4, RANGE 8, Maine ― Roxanne Quimby’s land company is acquiring another 8,315 acres adjoining Baxter State Park, officials said Monday.
The Forestland Group of Chapel Hill, N.C., previously owned the property, which is in Township 4, Range 8 of Penobscot County. It comprises 6,467 acres west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River and 1,848 acres east of the river. Besides Baxter State Park, it is bordered north and south by conservation property owned by the Quimby family’s Elliotsville Plantation Inc., said Lucas St. Clair, Quimby’s son.
Terms of the purchase were not disclosed. Elliotsville is a nonprofit foundation working to conserve land and open spaces for public benefit. It owns about 77,000 acres of recreation and sustainable forestland in Penobscot County and 42,000 acres in Piscataquis County, St. Clair said.
Snowmobilers will continue to have access to the newly acquired parcel for the foreseeable future, according to the Elliotsville announcement. The company also announced the opening of 14.3 miles of snowmobile trails on land it owns between Millinocket and Matagamon.
“As we continue to evaluate possibilities for the future of our properties in the Katahdin region, we are focusing on access for all Mainers for outdoor recreation,” said St. Clair. “That means emphasizing the world-class snowmobiling available east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River.”
The acquisition, said Maine Snowmobile Association Executive Director Bob Meyers, is not surprising given Quimby’s history of adding to her land. The deal doesn’t change the association’s opposition to Quimby’s proposed national park, he said.
“In the big picture of [statewide trail connectivity], it has zero value,” Meyers said Monday. “From the standpoint of an incredibly scenic outlook and destination for snowmobilers, it is huge.”
“It is a dead-end trail, but it’s on a lot of riders’ bucket lists,” he added.
St. Clair described the newly purchased land as having “impressive views of Mount Katahdin and a stretch of the pristine East Branch of the Penobscot River.”
Meyers said the trail almost centers the proposed national park land. Known locally as the “Lookout Trail,” it ends at “The Lookout,” which offers a spectacular view of the surrounding valley, he said.
A state easement allows snowmobiles on the trail for another two or three years.
St. Clair told Meyers of the transaction last week. The conversation was cordial, Meyers said.
“He indicated to me that he is a snowmobiler, hunter and fisherman, which I think is wonderful,” Meyers said. “I look forward to talking to him. I told him that I have a lot of respect for his mother, which I do, but we have a fundamental disagreement” about Quimby’s proposed national park.
Most federal and state leaders and several recreational groups, including Meyers’, have 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 use.
Park supporters have said that the park could provide a vast new revenue stream for the economically depressed region. A $40 million endowment Quimby plans to provide, including $20 million she hopes to raise with a national campaign, would cover park maintenance and operation costs.
Opponents challenge the credibility of a national park study supporters promote and are skeptical of statements made by Quimby and federal officials that a park would not grow beyond 70,000 acres. They fear federal authority would infringe on local government and threaten the state’s forest products industry, while supporters say a park could work with the region’s industries without threatening local sovereignty.
Meyers said he doesn’t see the increased access to the proposed park via the trail as likely to change anybody’s positions. Park support and opposition are “pretty hardened,” he said.
But conversations between both sides should continue, Meyers said.
“We used to have a pretty regular dialogue with Roxanne, and you can’t just say, ‘I hate your idea’ and walk away,” Meyers said. “We need to talk. How else can I convince them that their position is fundamentally wrong?”