Millinocket residents have found something that stirred up their civic pride and motivated them to action: the town’s fire horn.

When the town manager silenced the horn, protests were launched and 135 people attended a town meeting, where town councilors agreed to resume the twice daily horn blasts. One councilor, Richard Theriault, resigned over the controversy, saying he had hoped to devote his time on the council to more important matters.

Millinocket and the Katahdin region face issues much more pressing than whether a horn sounds at 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Residents and civic leaders must rise to the challenge and transfer their passion for the fire horn to other critical issues and activities.

The horn, which serves no purpose and was shut down by the town manager Aug. 12, became an unexpected symbol of town unity. Since the town’s paper mill closed in 2008, Millinocket has lost about half its population and had an unemployment rate at least double the state average, yet residents pay one of the highest property tax rates in the state.

“Enough has been done to this town and this horn was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” resident Nathalie “Money” McGibbon said Thursday. “This is part of our heritage. Please don’t take anything more away from us.”

Much has been taken away from Millinocket, but residents must be more engaged in building what comes next.

In July, a community group committed to revitalizing Millinocket disbanded because not enough people participated in its work.

The Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee, which began in 2008, restored the downtown gazebo, hung banners downtown, put a welcome sign on Central Street and created a downtown visitors center that is open on weekends. At its height, its monthly meetings drew 24 people, including town councilors, according to founder Marsha Donahue, a local gallery owner.

Two other groups remain but need community involvement and support. Our Katahdin has raised more than $50,000 in donations to support community projects, including banners for downtown Millinocket and fixing up the local bandstand and a playground. It also solicits ideas for future projects, big and small. Among submitted ideas include building trails, phone apps to share moose sightings and a town trip to a Red Sox or Patriots game. Its founders and board members are from Millinocket but reside elsewhere.

Earlier this year, Millinocket resident Amy Collinsworth launched the Facebook page, “There Ain’t No ‘Mill’ In Ocket,” which has 900 likes. Through the page, Collinsworth has spearheaded work to improve local parks and playgrounds.

“This page was created because I know there are lots of you out there who complain constantly about what NEEDS to happen, what we WANT to happen. Well guess what folks? It ain’t going to happen with gossip and bitching, so time to take action,” Collinsworth wrote in introducing the page.

Those who showed up on several nights in recent weeks to blare their car and truck horns to protest the silencing of the town fire horn, along with the 135 people who showed up at last week’s town meeting on the horn issue, should take this message to heart. Those who cared enough about a horn to participate in these events and force a change — the horn has started blaring again — could go to other meetings to share ideas to improve Millinocket or wield a shovel to improve a park, garden or walking trail.

“If we want to get people to meetings, maybe we will just shut [the horn] off in the future,” councilor Bryant Davis said.

Not a bad idea, if it comes to that.


The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...