MEDWAY, Maine — The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument needs a management plan, and Bruce Cox said he was happy to offer some ideas for it.
The Medway School Committee member stood over a map of the monument’s five parcels on Tuesday placing red stickers on several points that he felt were worthy of preservation. The 65-year-old said he knows the land well from spending much of his free time exploring it.
“It’s an educational opportunity for our children,” Cox told a focus group of nine fellow Katahdin region residents on Tuesday at Medway Middle School. “I raised two daughters in this town. We have an opportunity here. It is a work in progress to develop this, but [the monument] is also an environmental science lab that these kids can participate in.
“I think we can develop some businesses around it in Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket, and I think we can do it together,” he added.
Cox’s ideas were among dozens of thoughts collected by National Park Service officials during a listening session. Close to 100 people attended the session, which is among four the park service is holding in northern Maine as its local representatives begin three years of monument management plan construction.
The park service held its first session last week at Katahdin Middle/High School of Stacyville. It drew about 150 people.
Cox and Selectman John Lee said they thought that Katahdin region residents who opposed Roxanne Quimby’s controversial proposal have been softening their stance since President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating the monument on Aug. 24.
“You are still going to have those folks who are not going to go along with it, but it’s here now. People are beginning to turn toward making the best of it,” Lee said.
Not everyone at the Tuesday meeting was receptive to the monument. One woman reminded park service officials of a Maine law that mandates that state residents own state waterways that are bigger than 10 acres.
Resident Philippe Page predicted that the federal government would soon restrict waterway access.
“I think [the section of Seboeis River inside monument boundaries] will end up being just for canoes before it’s over,” Page said. “You people know it, too.”
Tim Hudson, who directs the plan assemblage for the park service, said that residents’ access to their waterways will not be restricted.
“There are many ways to access the river,” Hudson said.
Many Millinocket and East Millinocket residents attended Tuesday night’s session. East Millinocket Selectmen Clint Linscott and Kelley Michaud, Millinocket Town Councilor Charles Pray and New England Outdoors Center owner Matthew Polstein were among the out-of-towners present.
Among the ideas suggested: Creating a tri-town committee to advise the park service on the monument, designating it a national forest rather than a park, and ensuring that signage indicating the monument’s proximity be in all the towns near it. Limiting the number of trails in the monument to preserve its ecosystems and getting its neighbors together to develop a regional economic plan were other ideas.
Meeting participants who provided email addresses to the park service will get access to the monument management proposal via the internet, officials said.
The park service will hold another session from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Stearns High School of Millinocket.