EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — The Board of Selectmen will likely discuss on Monday its response 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.
In a letter to board Chairman Mark Scally dated Jan. 21, King expressed mixed feelings about Lucas St. Clair’s proposed 150,000-acre national park and recreation area. Echoing a similar request to Millinocket officials made last fall, King also asked the East Millinocket official what Scally would want to see in any legislation that might arise from St. Clair’s efforts, Scally said.
Scally said he would likely discuss the matter briefly when selectmen meet at the town office at 4 p.m. and would probably put the issue on the board’s agenda for a full discussion at its next meeting, which is slated for Feb. 23. The Millinocket Town Council’s decision to discuss its own list of requirements at a council meeting on Thursday makes it necessary, Scally said.
“We can’t sit on the back burner here. We have to get involved,” Scally said Monday.
The Millinocket council would back a proposed park and recreation area if it were no larger than 150,000 acres, included an access road to Millinocket, Maine residents got free admission passes and if the region’s federal air-quality standards remained unchanged, according to the three-page draft letter Millinocket Town Manager Peggy Daigle wrote.
Councilors “want to clearly state their requirements for enabling legislation should a national park be slated for consideration,” Daigle wrote in the draft, which was released Friday.
King sought the list when he met with town officials last fall, Daigle said. The park’s creation would begin with Maine’s delegation introducing a bill to Congress to authorize it. The delegates have said they need to see strong local support for the proposal before that happens.
Although he personally likes the idea of a national park, Scally said his initiative does not necessarily mean that the town supports St. Clair’s proposal. The son of entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, St. Clair proposes donating to the National Park Service 75,000 acres for a park and a 75,000-acre multi-use recreation area on Quimby lands east of Baxter State Park. Endowments and fundraisers totaling $40 million would help maintain the park, which would create 400 to 1,000 jobs, St. Clair has said.
East Millinocket residents voted overwhelmingly against a proposed national park feasibility study in 2011, but townspeople’s feelings might have changed since then, Scally said. The former Great Northern Paper mill in the town has since closed and been sold.
Several recreational groups and Maine’s political establishment, from its Congressional delegation, governor and state and county government to Millinocket’s council, have resisted the proposal. They have said a park would bring unwelcome federal authority into Maine, cramp the state’s forest products industries with strict air-quality laws, create only low-paying jobs and grow far beyond 150,000 acres.
King echoed some of those concerns in his letter, Scally said. King wrote that while he would like to see a national park work, problems with Acadia National Park‘s responsiveness to town officials in that area have left him skeptical whether the service should be entrusted with another national park in Maine, Scally said.