Last week the BDN covered the latest plans of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the company that manages Roxanne Quimby’s lands in Maine.
After the stories ran, I asked readers to let us know what they thought of the continued effort to turn some of that land into a national park, and a newly explained plan to include a national recreation area where hunting would be allowed. Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, now serves as president of EPI’s board, and has fostered a more cooperative atmosphere between the company and local residents.
Readers were eager to share their opinions. Here is a representative sample, some of which were edited for space, style and appropriateness.
From Mark and Anita Picard, Millinocket
Thanks for asking folks to weigh in on the National Park proposal. Mark and I see the current National Park and National Recreation Area proposal as a partial solution to improving the region’s economic outlook as well as a means to help address the declining population.
The recent economic study authored by Headwaters and peer reviewed by a number of reputable Maine economist, paints a clear picture of what is possible with a National Park and National Recreation Area in the Katahdin Region. Although not originally from Maine, Mark has been traveling to the region several times a year for over 30 years.
Over 10 years ago he began promoting Wildlife Photography Workshops in the region which have attracted photographers from across the United States as well as numerous foreign countries. With a chance to photograph Maine’s iconic Moose, (whether in June during the height of black fly season or in the fall) folks are not deterred by Maine’s remoteness or distance, spending an average of $500 a day in the region which does not include transportation cost to arrive here or personal items such as souvenirs and alcoholic beverages.
The biggest advantage to a National Park in the region (which would not be enjoyed by other possible designations for the land) is the internationally recognized branding a National Park offers. In fact, we see tremendous possibilities for the region’s guides and while we don’t hunt or ATV ourselves, we respect the history and traditions of the folks who do.
Unfortunately, many of the people who have enjoyed traditional uses of the woods in the region have had to move away and families have lost a generation of woods traditions because of the lack of jobs in the region. Millinocket alone has lost 13 percent of its population between 2000 and 2010. The median income is $36,000 compared to the $46,000 for the State of Maine as a whole and well below the average income for people living near a National Park and National Recreation Area.
It is estimated that Millinocket will see the largest continued population decline of any town in Maine over the next seven years at 43 percent. The job creation value of a combined National Park and National Recreation Area is estimated to be between 400 and 1,000 jobs. The creation of these jobs will not affect, in an adverse way, the timber sector jobs which have been steadily declining (from 16 percent of personal income in Penobscot county in 1979 to 3 percent in 2010).
In fact, the ability of the region to attract folks to a diverse economy with a mix of manufacturing, construction, tourism and service sector related jobs can only help bring families back or to the region. With dwindling populations, regional municipalities are finding it difficult to generate enough revenue to support their schools and provide basic municipal services. Next year alone, Millinocket will need to cut another $1 million dollars from its already austere budget due to less valuation. Unless something is done soon to attract people to the region little will be left for those who have enjoyed traditional uses and believe in a brighter future for the region, its economy, and people.
From Merrill Tracy, Bangor
Don’t fall for it. All the people I have talked to agree [Roxanne Quimby is] just hanging out a carrot in front of our noses. When she gets what she wants I (we) believe we will hear “Slam and Click,” the gates will close and the locks will lock. What has she done to convince us, we, me that this is not the plan? How about a lifetime written, signed guarantee? Nah, it would get overturned somehow. I also believe use the land while it’s open, treat it like it was your own, respect the privilege don’t let her blame us for the “whys” when it gets closed later.
From Diana Marsh Tyrie, Big Moose Township
I wanted to write to say that I was thrilled to read your article about the gifting that Ms. Quimby and Mr. St. Clair have done, and intend to do, and to say that despite what some of your readers will say to the contrary, these people have a real vision for the Maine wilderness and all who live in Maine and in the USA.
Maine’s North Woods are a national treasure and jewel. Not many states can boast what the Maine North Woods have to offer.
To develop this pristine land would be a national crime! People who love the wilderness would suffer by losing an abundance of water and wildlife, and beauty.
It is painful enough to read about outside multimillion dollar corporations and what they intend to do to develop slick resorts in Maine. There are an abundance of these places in our country that have now been devalued due to a poor economy. Some have been abandoned and are real junkyards. Destroying wilderness for development will not save Maine!
When does mankind ever learn that preserving the jewel of wilderness is beneficial in so many more ways than developing land ?
I say thank you to those who gift, everyone of you, and for your vision.
The end result of preserving the North Woods will bring many rewards for the residents of Maine and for our country.
From Marsha Donahue, Millinocket
I am writing from downtown Millinocket, where my husband and I own a large building in which I run North Light Gallery, going into my tenth year. When we came here from Portland that many years ago, we saw a beautiful town that had fallen into decline and have seen it continue to decline since we got here.
I have been involved in the chamber and the creation of several downtown business and revitalization groups since I came here but the blunt fact is that industry will probably never be king here again. We have to craft a new future that is a combination of things, just as we have to create multiple income streams in our personal lives to prosper.
I was born and grew up in small towns in Maine; Pittsfield, West Paris and finally high school in Auburn, which is not so small. I lived in Washington, D.C., for eight years and the same economic decline and the loss of industry has hit everyone. Luckily, Millinocket saw prosperity much longer than most and so reshaping their vision is harder in some ways.
We do have many assets that other declining regions don’t with Katahdin and the woods and waterways. It has been hard to describe to residents up here how it feels to have a postage stamp sized yard in the city and then to drive up here with this deep, vast and cool woods all around.
If everyone in the world had a place like this to decompress, there would be less strife, I’m convinced!
I understand the sense of ownership of the residents who have always had this treasure to themselves but, if done right, maybe it can be shared with those less fortunate and still be enjoyed by the residents here.
This is why I like Lucas St. Clair’s recent direction. And, having read the studies regarding the potential for development in areas surrounding national parks, the economic studies of the counties in this region and the studies regarding the impact on the wood basket, I strongly feel that the pluses outweigh the minuses.
I find the negative arguments to be emotional and fear-based, which I understand, but as someone who wants to see the schools and businesses come back and new industry come back, we can not afford to listen to fear.
What has been offered is such a tremendous gift, complete with an endowment, and with Lucas in charge and his particular listening skills, why not consider this? The plain fact is that those who sit at the table will affect change and those who continue to resist will not be at the table. I think that is a shame because they are the ones who should be there.
From Chuck Fagone, Portland
As a Maine Guide who travels north quite often, but lives in the southern part of the state I thought
I would take you up on your offer regarding thoughts on the EPI opening up lands to hunters and recreational uses. First, I think its wonderful news for people of the region and second I’ve never met Roxanne’s son Lucas, but initially I’m impressed with his gestures as well as his communication style. He has written some informative articles in one of the state’s outdoor magazine on exactly where EPI stands. I am pleased that EPI will not be taking a stand on the potential of a bear referendum. This is certainly good news for sportsman.
Personally, as for the implementation of a National Park I’m concerned with having anything run by the Federal Government. Although Acadia is a beautiful national park and is run efficiently, I don’t like the fact that the surrounding area is a tourist trap. The configuration of the North Woods and how it works today is a blueprint on how a number of landowners can come together to offer the general public a recreation area while maintaining a working forest. Its about as primitive and a wild place that you will find in the lower 48 states.
I believe moving forward that EPI and the people of Maine can begin to mend the soured relationships from the past. I think everyone wants what is best for the region and we can’t move forward unless people are talking in a civilized manner.
From Bob Zimmerman, Abbot
Roxanne Quimby is the most hated woman in Piscataquis County.
That’s not a hard title to win. There aren’t enough women in Piscataquis County to fill the left field bleachers at Fenway Park and they are generally a likable group. Not counting the State auto registration clerks down to Dover, of course.
Her son Lucas’s enlightened attitude (see born here vs. from away) may save her as she cruises the tote roads around Misery Gore looking for for sale signs.
The north Maine woods have been assaulted by pilgrims, Bangor lumber barons, paper companies, New Jersey hunters and billionaires.
Relax, there will be no north woods national park, 500-foot-wide “corridor” or slots in T3 R11 WELS (west of the east line of the state) which is the township you get with no GPS.
From Jim Donaghue, Freeport
I’m all for the National Park. As an avid canoeist, fisherman and hiker I’m looking forward to better access to the Katahdin area East of Baxter Peak. Planning a trip down the East Branch of the Penobscot next summer.
From Jackie Frietas, Friendship
Shame on righteous Mainers who think it is okay to bash Roxanne Quimby, her son and her company (I heard a park ranger bashing someone for buying “Burt’s Bees” products because Quimby owned the company which she sold to others long ago). Quimby is the owner of the land in question (period). She is trying to compromise in an uncompromising place. Is it sexism? Is it distasteful intolerance for “foreigners” moving to Maine to exercise their rights to buy land? She is giving up a good portion of her land for “traditional Maine activities”; now those who practice those activities have a chance to compromise and give “the rest of us” some of that space (a national park would be a healthy, fair compromise).