East Millinocket gears up to tackle North Woods national park question

Posted Feb. 09, 2015, at 8:27 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 09, 2015, at 8:43 p.m.

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Selectmen will respond in two weeks to independent U.S. Sen. Angus King’s request for a list of town requirements for possible federal legislation creating a North Woods national park, the board’s chairman said Monday.

In a letter to board Chairman Mark Scally dated Jan. 21, King expressed ambivalence about Lucas St. Clair’s proposed 150,000-acre national park and recreation area, which would go on land owned by Roxanne Quimby, St. Clair’s mother, east of Baxter State Park.

“For a North Woods park to work, the [National] Park Service must be legally and permanently bound to incorporate the concerns of the local community — both in creating a park and in its future management,” King wrote. “At this time, I could not support absolute federal control over tens of thousands of acres in Maine, as would be the case under the current park management model.”

Scally said after a regular meeting on Monday board members had agreed to defer the debate to the board’s Feb. 23 meeting. In response to a request from King, Millinocket’s Town Council will discuss its park requirements when councilors meet Thursday.

Board member and park opponent Mark Marston said after Monday’s meeting he was receptive to a new park discussion.

“I think we should have another vote in November to see if people support the park,” Marston said.

In his letter, the senator said the park’s economic impact on the Katahdin region “is likely to be positive.”

“National parks have an inherent brand attraction and draw visitors to an area with measurable and predictable impact. Food and hospitality industries in the area would be bolstered, and individuals and area businesses engaged in outdoor and recreation industries would likely benefit as well,” King wrote.

Yet, like Marston, King is leery at “how restrictive” the park service “can be to certain types of activity on their land, as well as the pitfalls of managing unique local resources from Washington.”

King said he was “extremely disappointed in how the park service has handled some recent issues at Acadia National Park where their unresponsiveness to local concerns was a great detriment to surrounding communities.

“This experience has left me skeptical as to whether the service should be entrusted with the management of a new park in Maine,” he added.

His letter did not describe the “recent issues.”

Federal legislation is required to create a new Maine national park and customarily would be introduced by Maine’s federal representatives. The delegates have said a park would need strong local support before they would draft a bill.

East Millinocket residents voted overwhelmingly against a proposed national park feasibility study in 2011, joining several recreational and forest products industry groups, Gov. Paul LePage, state government, the Penobscot County board of commissioners and several municipalities.

Opponents fear a park would bring unwelcome federal authority into Maine, cramp the state’s forest products industries, limit sportsmen’s access, create only low-paying jobs and grow far beyond 150,000 acres.

St. Clair has said his proposed 75,000-acre park and a 75,000-acre multi-use recreation area would do none of those things. His family’s endowments and fundraisers totaling $40 million would help maintain the park, which would create 400 to 1,000 jobs, St. Clair has said.

Roxanne Quimby became a multimillionaire years ago through her ownership of Burt’s Bees, an American personal care products company specializing in all-natural products and since the early 2000s has been dedicated to environmentalist causes.

 

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