A 15-year management plan for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway has received final approval by senior officials at the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. The plan reflects changes made to the State’s Allagash statutes since adoption of the last plan, in 1999, and presents policies, goals and strategies for the management and recreational use of the waterway.
After two years of development and broad input from stakeholders, the new plan was signed in late December by ACF Commissioner Walt Whitcomb and Will Harris, director of the Division of Parks and Public Lands.
Five-year periodic reviews will keep the plan up to date.
The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a spectacular, 92-mile-long waterway that, in 1970, became the first state-administered river approved for inclusion in the National Wild and Scenic River system as a Wild River Area.
The state of Maine purchased the land along the waterway after Maine voters overwhelmingly approved a $1.5 million bond issue. The bond money, together with matching federal dollars from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, provided the funds necessary for acquiring the restricted zone — land within 400 to 800 feet on both sides of the waterway.
A 2005 attempt at updating the waterway management plan ended in failure primarily because the various parties could not agree on motor vehicle access points and the rebuilding of Henderson Brook Bridge. Legislation codifying motor vehicle access points and permanent bridge crossings, as well as designating the number of snowmobile access points, effectively settled the primary areas of contention.
The establishment of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Advisory Council also paved the way for the recently approved plan. The council’s first task was to develop a first-ever strategic plan for the waterway. That work, completed in December 2010, followed the guidelines of the founding legislation, which directs the waterway to “preserve, protect and develop the maximum wilderness character of the watercourse.” That strategic plan, along with related legislation, forms the underpinning of the 2012 Allagash Wilderness Waterway management plan.
The waterway plan is broken into nine management policy sections with goals, objectives and strategies under each section.
For instance, the plan directs the waterway to eliminate snowmobile access locations at Burntland Brook and Indian Stream and add snowmobile access at Smith Brook and Nugent’s Camps. This maintains the total of 19 snowmobile access locations as directed by statute.
The wilderness character of the waterway is to be enhanced by several strategies, including the removal of directional signs that are not absolutely necessary and minimizing signage outside the concentrated use areas. The buildings at Telos Dam are slated for removal and the access road to the dam will be relocated. The parking lot next to the ranger station at Michaud Farm will be closed in favor of a new handicap accessible parking area that will be screened from the river.
Some other highlights of the plan are:
• The use of ATVs will be prohibited year-round but could be allowed by special exception when there is lack of snow in the winter by the posting of access trails.
• Three new campsites are to be built next to the Chamberlain parking lot to accommodate late arriving canoe groups.
• Multiparty campsites will be reduced in size or replaced with single-party campsites where possible.
• Campsite standards will be developed and sites will not be allowed to fall below a base standard. Remedial action will be taken, such as hardening or relocation when problems are identified.
• Facilities at vehicle access points are to be improved to better accommodate use by persons with disabilities.
• Public information will be enhanced by using Internet-based tools to help users preview and plan trips to the waterway.
To download a copy of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway management plan, visit the Division of Parks and Public Lands website at www.maine.gov/doc/parks/programs/planning/AWW2011plan.html.
Requests for a printed copy of the waterway plan should be sent to: Maine Division of Parks and Public Lands, 22 State House Station, Augusta 04333 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, visit www.maine.gov/doc/parks/ or call 941-4014, email email@example.com or write to the Division of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor 04401.
Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.