EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Town leaders have asked a Medway-based committee promoting a feasibility study of Roxanne Quimby’s proposed national park to allow study and park opponents to present their arguments at a meeting at Schenck High School on Thursday.
Claiming that the opposition’s position is unclear and the debate has been dominated by pro-study and park advocates, Board of Selectmen Chairman Mark Scally said the National Park Regional Citizen Evaluation Committee meeting will feature state Sen. Doug Thomas, town Selectman Mark Marston and other park and study opponents.
“We asked a multitude of people to come. It still is their meeting,” Scally said of committee members, “but we asked them to consider opposing views and they are more than welcoming it.”
Quimby, meeting organizers have said, will attend Thursday’s meeting. She has an unlisted telephone number and an attempt to contact her by email on Thursday was not immediately successful.
The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the school gymnasium and is open to the public.
Quimby hopes to give about 70,000 acres she owns adjacent to Baxter State Park to the National Park Service in 2016 and to create a 30,000-acre parcel in which motorized recreation will be allowed. The national park would be maintained by a $40 million endowment Quimby will create that will include $20 million she plans to raise in a national campaign.
Park opponents, who include U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, state lawmakers and Millinocket Town Councilors, have said they fear federal influence will undermine local authority and threaten the state forest products industry. They also question a study’s credibility. Millinocket’s leaders and Snowe also recently proposed an economic development study of the Katahdin region that could counter the park study.
Park s tudy proponents, which include the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Millinocket’s downtown business association and Medway town and school leaders, say a National Park Service study would answer many basic questions about the park plan, including whether the land is worthy of a national park.
Federal park officials say a study would cost the federal government about $250,000 over several years and that only about half the lands studied get approval as potential parks.
Town leaders have adopted a neutral position on the park and study question to allow residents to decide for themselves, Scally said. Many basic questions remain unanswered, he said. Quimby’s campaign to draw study and park support, including a recent interview at forbes.com in which she derided Maine as a welfare state, has also been spotty, with some snowmobile clubs claiming that her attempt to lure support for her plan in exchange for five years of access to snowmobile trails on her land smacks of coercion.
“Her motives may be pure, but her methods are not,” Scally said, calling her criticisms of Maine and Mainers “numb.”
“I guess one question is, why does it have to be a national park? It could be a state park or it could be Quimbyland (a totally private effort),” Scally said. “The best thing she could do is alleviate the fears of the snowmobilers and leave [her land] open to snowmobiles for perpetuity.”
Park opponents have also not made themselves clear, Scally said.
“There is a lack of information and I blame the opposition,” he added. “Why are they against it? Why don’t they publicize it? Tell us. All we have heard is from one side. It is time for them to speak up.”