The Christmas season and promise of a new year has a way of bringing hope and reflection. On occasion people even follow through on their new year’s resolutions.
I suspect Roxanne Quimby’s recent decision to withdraw her 70,000-acre national park proposal is not a change of heart but stems from the stark reality that with the crushing election year loss of pro-park Senate candidate Cynthia Dill and the victory of anti-park candidate Angus King, her hopes and dreams for the coming year have changed dramatically. As disappointing as this must be for Quimby, I see this as an incredible new opportunity to mend broken fences and, at the same time, change lives forever.
Through her son Lucas and Washington, D.C., public relations consultants, she has asked for ideas and potential uses for her vast property. I have 10 Christmas wishes for these lands, and if I had influence this is what I would tell Quimby:
1. Take down your gates.
2. Make all of your land-use agreements stand for 20 years or more as a gesture of goodwill and to assure skeptics you are seriously abandoning a national park plan.
3. Create a committee of in-state land-use leaders, and direct them to develop multiuse recreational opportunities on your land that do not exclude anyone based on their choice of recreation.
4. Inventory your lands for wildlife habitat. Once you have identified trout spawning habitat, deer yards, bird nesting sites, etc., protect and manage them forever using the appropriate state wildlife agency.
5. Open your land to all youth hunting days where appropriate and encourage families and the next generation to build lifelong memories.
6. Work with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and our partners to expand our “Gift of a Lifetime” youth lifetime fishing license program by offering your wilderness camps for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend experience for children who might never have such an opportunity.
7. Join us in healing the broken bodies and broken spirits of our returning soldiers by opening your lands for the development of veteran outdoor opportunities of all kinds.
8. Reach out to youth groups dedicated to resource conservation and ask if there are ways your land can benefit the children they serve.
9. Ask the children who use your lands to help name this new recreational park.
10. Set up an ongoing endowment to pay for the above wishes.
Last year, I had the pleasure to share the outdoors with dozens of children and veterans through community organizing and volunteering. I worked side by side with volunteers from land trusts, watershed associations, veterans groups, Democrats, Republicans, union representatives and people across the income spectrum. Many of the children and volunteers who participated would never consider hunting, fishing or most of the outdoors activities I enjoy, but I consider many of them my new friends.
What I’ve learned is that sharing the outdoors with children and their families, friends and neighbors has a way of bringing people together.
Friendships and family bonds are reinforced when people work together to share outdoor experiences. People and organizations that typically don’t associate start talking, and, in time, they learn to trust each other.
Quimby has land and financial wealth unlike most of our society. She could decide to use this new year and fresh start to bring people together and design a plan that could change lives and families forever. Understanding that putting up gates and excluding people based on their choice of recreation insults them deeply is the first step in rebuilding relationships.
Now that is a wish and legacy I can get behind.
David Trahan is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.