The National Park Service is putting out to bid contracts to install signs directing motorists to Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument more than a year after then-Gov. Paul LePage dropped his opposition to road signs.
Superintendent Tim Hudson said the signs already have been produced and are in storage awaiting installation alongside roads in the late summer in northern Maine.
In the next few days, the National Park Service will seek proposals for installing 11 signs with wooden posts and another 11 signs with metal posts in the Katahdin region. Included are six large signs for Interstate 95 that will feature a concrete foundation and metal posts.
Andrew Bossie from the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters said the signs are needed to direct motorists to an attraction that local residents hope will provide an economic boost.
“People are eager to get the signs up,” he said. “There are a lot of folks who want to see the economic benefits of visitation. This is only going to help.”
The wooded wilderness includes a 17-mile loop road with stunning views of Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, along with trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling, and paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.
But there are no signs telling motorists how to get there, unlike plentiful signs for Acadia National Park and other attractions across the state.
LePage, a Republican, initially prevented the Maine Department of Transportation from installing signs as he fought against the monument that was created by Democratic President Barack Obama, arguing that federal ownership could stymie economic development. He favored keeping the land as working forest.
The initial bids for the road signs were more expensive than expected, contributing to the delays, Hudson said. But the signs are expected to be installed this season, by late summer, he said.
Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated 87,500 acres of land to the National Park Service, said the signs will be worth the wait.
“You don’t realize how big interstate signs are until you stand next to one,” he said. “This is going to be one of the more transformative moments in the monument since its creation. We hope to have these signs up for a long, long time.”
Related: 1-minute hike: Esker Trail in Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument