KATAHDIN WOODS AND WATERS NATIONAL MONUMENT, Maine — Amid an ongoing federal review and contention over the signs advertising it, Maine’s national monument opened fully for its first full year on Thursday with a handful of visitors more interested in nature than politics.
About a half dozen people came to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on Thursday, Superintendent Tim Hudson said, adding that attendance will likely increase this Memorial Day weekend. The Loop Road was the last entrance to open. The monument’s north gate opened on May 13.
One visitor, Connecticut resident Ron Goulet, described the land as pristine wilderness.
“We stopped at every place we could walk,” said Goulet, who has a Maine camp and visited Katahdin Woods with a friend. “The loop is just majestic. The view there is really something to see. People who want to see what nature has to see without a lot of commercialism, this is it.”
The monument controversy has drawn international attention. As federal officials review the legality of the executive order that created Katahdin Woods, proponents hope that it will buoy the region’s economy — while critics dismiss it as a federal boondoggle that would draw little interest from tourists. The review is due in August.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, called upon the official doing the review, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, to conclude it quickly and reaffirm the executive order that created the monument.
“I know that this administration is serious about growing jobs in rural areas,” King wrote in a three-page letter to Zinke on Thursday. “I am absolutely convinced that the prompt conclusion of this review and reaffirmation of the monument designation would be a positive step in this direction.”
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, joined 85 congresspeople in sending another letter to Zinke, saying President Donald Trump could not legally rescind or substantially reduce monuments.
Gov. Paul LePage has said he will not allow official signs pointing to the monument on state roads until the review is finished in mid-August. His stance compelled the hanging of at least one homemade sign on an Interstate 95 overpass that state workers removed on Wednesday, citing safety concerns.
Monument roads have been graded enough to handle cars and its trails, viewshed areas and trails are marked. Several displays highlighting monument features have been installed, Hudson said.