December 11, 2017
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What we know about access to North Woods national monument land

By John Holyoke and Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Updated:
BDN File | BDN
BDN File | BDN
The East Branch of the Penobscot River runs through parts of the area of Elliotsville Plantation Inc.

BANGOR, Maine — Now that President Barack Obama has made it official and signed an executive order creating the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, those interested in visiting the new attraction might be wondering what kind of activities will, and won’t, be allowed on its 87,563 acres.

Many answers to questions about hunting, trapping and snowmobiling are still being formulated, but the paperwork and leaders of the monument movement shed some light Wednesday on what visitors can expect.

Among the 13 deeds to parcels comprising the monument, seven, covering about 33,000 acres, include stipulations that specifically allow hunting in some forms. They don’t specify what animals can be hunted. All trapping, however, and hunting bears with dogs or bait are expressly prohibited.

In those parcels where hunting has been stipulated as allowable, the National Park Service still will be allowed to “designate zones where, and establish periods when no hunting shall be permitted for reasons of public safety, administration, or resource protection,” according to the deeds.

In addition, four deeded parcels, covering 14,800 acres, specifically mention snowmobiling as a permitted activity.

The locations where hunting and snowmobiling are allowed are locations where those rights already existed, according to David Farmer, spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation Inc. The language was added to the deeds to ensure people can continue to use the land for those purposes.

The five deeds covering the largest combined parcel — 52,400 acres — mention neither hunting nor snowmobiling as permitted activities. Those activities weren’t permitted in those areas before, and won’t be allowed now.

The division of clearly defined activities seems to follow a blueprint unveiled by Lucas St. Clair, son of millionaire and former monument landowner Roxanne Quimby, in September 2013.

St. Clair, the president of the board of Elliotsville Plantation, which oversees Quimby’s lands in Maine, in 2013 announced that he and Elliotsville Plantation were welcoming “traditional” sportsmen back to parcels where his mother had been reluctant to grant access to hunters and snowmobilers.

That plan called for two separate parcels: One, to the west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, would be a national park, where permitted activities would be more restricted. The other, on the east side of the river, would be a national recreation area where some hunting and snowmobiling would be allowed.

Farmer confirmed Wednesday that is still the goal.

According to the deeds, stipulations on some of the parcels appear to generally follow that blueprint: On lands east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, some hunting and snowmobiling is typically allowed. On parcels that lie to the west of the East Branch — all the way to the boundary with Baxter State Park — there is typically no mention of snowmobiling or hunting.

In some areas, however, the situation is more murky: In Township 4 Range 7, for instance, where 6,595 acres was transferred to the government, hunting is listed as a permitted activity, while snowmobiling is not mentioned at all. According to a map on the Katahdin Woods and Waters website, there are snowmobile trails threaded through the northeast corner of the township.

The deeds also show facilities and improvements might be planned for portions of the land in coming years.

For example, the deed for “Three Rivers,” 9,896 acres in Township 3 Range 7 west of Stacyville, includes an option for Elliotsville Plantation to build a “visitor contact station” — presumably marking the main entrance to the monument off Route 11.

The deed for 267.5 acres in the Lower Shin Pond area states that Elliotsville Plantation has the right to build piers, docks, boathouses and related facilities, presumably on the pond or nearby waterways. Other deeds discuss new potential trails and nonmotorized recreational corridors.

There are reservations and covenants that allow Quimby and Elliotsville Plantation to remain on the land and make these upgrades and sets up general conditions that must be followed. Among those conditions: maximum width of trails and roads, and specific guidelines on construction of kiosks, warming huts and signs.

Each of those reservations and covenants, however, expires after a set term — often five or seven years, which can then be extended for another short period of time by Elliotsville Plantation.

“We have the right to [build these facilities] without approval from the park service,” St. Clair said, because those rights allow Elliotsville Plantation to “speed development of the site at a faster rate.”

Speeding site development is critical to helping the monument have a positive impact on the northern Maine economy sooner rather than later, he said. If those timeframes expire, the National Park Service would take on any remaining changes as needed.

Another longstanding question has been how people will get into the monument. Some clarity is provided by the monument page at NPS.gov, which went live shortly after Wednesday’s announcement. The website states that visitors who want to enter the monument from the south will do so via Route 11, which will be called the Katahdin Woods and Waters Scenic Byway, and turning onto Swift Brook Road. This will serve as the monument’s main entryway.

People also can enter the northern section of the monument via Route 159 and Grand Lake Road, according to the website.

 


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