An eclectic group of Katahdin Woods and Waters stakeholders and neighbors gathered in Millinocket on Wednesday to discuss how to balance their various interests in the monument, especially during the winter.
The winter use meeting on Jan. 24 was the first of several public forums slated for this year to gather suggestions for the monument’s management plan, due to be complete by 2019.
Some groups lobbied for increased snowmobile access and others advocated for a network of cross-country ski trails that offer a quieter experience, one without the hum of motors.
“When the monument came over and switched hands [to the National Park Service], we changed almost nothing,” said monument Superintendent Tim Hudson. “That was on purpose. And that’s what this is about here.”
The management plan is a three-year effort to shape the monument, its features and processes, to conform to the desires of neighbors and other stakeholders while making it as attractive as possible to visitors.
About 60 people — including snowmobilers, Acadia National Park staff, Maine guides, local business owners and timberland manager — showed up to the winter use meeting, breaking into seven groups to huddle over maps, share their opinions, and get them down on paper.
“We want to make sure everyone who wants to enjoy the monument has something to enjoy,” said Andrew Bossie, executive director of Friends of KWW, a nonprofit group founded a year ago to support and raise private funds for the monument.
Dog sledding, skijoring, winter camping, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, birding and ice fishing were all activities addressed during the meeting. Suggestions included new access roads and parking areas, improved trails, and the creation of lodges and cabins for overnight visitors.
KWW was transferred to the National Park Service in 13 different parcels and deeds. The proclamations in those deeds protected or prohibited certain types of recreational use. For example, hunting — except for bear baiting and hounding — is protected in the monument east of the East Branch of the Penobscot River.
Snowmobiling is prohibited west of the Penobscot, though some at the meeting pushed for expanded access.
In the past two winters, Hudson has worked with three local snowmobiling clubs to ensure that Maine’s Interconnected Trail System is routed around active logging operations and threads through the monument. This section of the ITS is crucial for connecting snowmobile trails in Aroostook County to the rest of Maine. And at the meeting, many people suggested expanding snowmobile access to the west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, where snowmobiling is currently prohibited.
Currently, the only easy access to KWW lands is from the north gate in Matagamon, where a parking lot is plowed. From there, visitors can hop onto about 30 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails that trace the East Branch and lead to two backcountry cabins that are available by reservation.
The roads that provide access to the southern part of KWW, including the monument’s 16-mile Katahdin Loop Road, are closed to vehicles during the winter due to active logging operations.
The results of the winter use meeting will be made public in the spring, when the next public meeting will be held, said Noel Musson, the project manager for the six-person team tasked with developing the plan.
In the meantime, the public can submit comments about the future management plan to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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