Its largest advocacy group hopes to get on with developing Maine’s national monument now that Gov. Paul LePage has allowed state officials to post monument signs on state roads.
“We are so glad that he has come around,” said Andrew Bossie, executive director of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “From a friends group perspective, the more this cloud lifts, the more people are likely to invest in the monument and the communities that surround it.”
In May 2017, LePage ordered the Maine Department of Transportation not to allow signs pointing the way to the monument, saying doing so would be counterproductive with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reviewing the status of Katahdin Woods and 26 other monuments.
LePage’s reversal on Monday might be a sign that the last of the monument’s opponents have accepted federal ownership of the 87,562 acres east of Baxter State Park, but Bossie said he doubted it.
“I think we will always have space for people to join us in creating and building and celebrate this new monument. I look forward to the time when the governor is one of those people,” Bossie said Tuesday.
As far as the end of opposition goes, “I don’t think we are out of the woods yet. We haven’t seen a lot of evidence that people have opposed the existence of the monument. We still are watchful for any types of threats,” Bossie added.
The opening day for the monument’s three roads is not yet set. It depends on when the snow melts and roads dry, but will likely come around Memorial Day, at the latest, said monument Superintendent Tim Hudson.
He and Bossie are planning infrastructure improvements to the monument for 2018, plus more events at Katahdin Woods. Bossie has also hit the road in support of Katahdin Woods. The planning is not finished, but Bossie said he expects that this year will feature at least as many monument activities as 2017.
He was hired in January as executive director of the Portland-based group, which has more than 400 members, to help develop the monument and raise funds for it.
Bossie has held meetings in Brunswick, Millinocket, Patten and Portland to increase group membership and advertise the monument’s features.
“I am not going to oversell,” Bossie said. “We will keep doing what we can to promote it.”
Some of the already planned events include a camp set for June wherein educators from around the state will visit the monument to learn how it can be used in conjunction with school-based efforts, Bossie said.
Bossie said he expects at least 600 students and volunteers will participate this year in the Katahdin Learning Project, a place-based educational effort to get regional students to learn about the outdoors and do community service in the monument and in surrounding communities.
Two new maps detailing Katahdin Woods offerings have been completed, Bossie said.
New trails will be cut around the monument’s main Loop Road, with new interior signage pointing out features, Hudson said.
More events will be scheduled, Bossie said.
“We have a monument to build,” he said. “We need to promote this area, not just in Maine but afar to the rest of the country and beyond.”
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