The possibility of a national park in the greater Katahdin region has been discussed for decades. Historically it was very controversial and opposed by many who live in the region. But things are very different now.
The downward spiral of our economy coupled with huge changes in landownership has forced our region to look for new ways to boost and broaden economic and cultural opportunities. The downturn of the paper industry and the shutdown of our paper mills has signaled to us that there is a real and urgent need to diversify our region’s economy, and we firmly believe that the forest products industry and the proposed national park are compatible and could co-exist comfortably.
Roxanne Quimby has proposed to donate 70,000 acres of land along the East Branch of the Penobscot River for a national park, a proposal that has generated much discussion in the Katahdin region. Before a park can be created, a feasibility study must be completed. A study would answer many questions about the impact of such a park.
As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, much has changed for our state and our nation. Twenty years ago neither of us would have supported the idea of a national park in the Maine woods. Today however, the world is a different place and the economic vitality of this region is in jeopardy.
On Thursday, Aug. 18, the citizens of Medway spoke loudly and clearly. They voted overwhelmingly in favor of a feasibility study for a national park.
Before the vote in Medway on Thursday night, residents of the Katahdin region and from elsewhere around Maine had a unique opportunity to experience one of the great features of our American democracy: An open public discussion with high-ranking government officials right here in Maine.
That afternoon, Secretary Salazar of the U.S. Department of the Interior came to Millinocket along with Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, to answer questions about a feasibility study and a National Park and what that might mean for Maine. That truly was a unique opportunity to get some candid answers directly from the Secretary and the Director.
The citizens of Medway recognize these changes and voted to explore a new path. In exploring this new path, they need the support of Maine citizens from across the state. We feel the time has come for the people of this state to stand with the citizens of Medway and many others in the Katahdin region to support a feasibility study for a national park.
We, like many people in this region who have lived all of our lives in this state, often forget what a unique treasure Maine’s North Woods truly is. It is a resource that has sustained us for generations and it can continue to sustain us for many generations to come with careful planning and new ideas.
Mainers are blessed, as Salazar said in his closing comments, to call this state home. Nowhere else in the northeast is there such an unbroken stretch of forest. As two lifelong residents of Medway, we deeply love these Maine woods. We believe they deserve the kind of careful thought and strong local input that a feasibility study could generate.
There is no reason to avoid facts and hide the truth. The time has come for a feasibility study and we are just two citizens of the growing number of supporters who are calling on Maine people across the state to speak up for our future.
In addition to being Medway natives, we are career paper industry workers. We wholeheartedly agree with the town of Medway and support a feasibility study to assess the value of the national park to our region.
Bruce Cox and George McLaughlin are residents of Medway and co-chairmen of the National Park Citizens Committee (NPCC). They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 447-0570 or 746-5097.