Knife Edge and Pamola Peak is seen from Baxter Peak of Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, on Sept. 10, 2016, in Baxter State Park. Credit: Aislinn Sarnacki / BDN

Happy birthday, Baxter State Park.

Ninety years ago on March 3, Gov. Percival Baxter gifted the first parcel of land of what would become Baxter State Park, one of Maine’s most treasured outdoor destinations.

Home to the state’s tallest mountain, Katahdin, the park now covers more than 209,644 acres, making it one of the largest state parks in the country, and the largest ever given by an individual. It features more than 200 miles of trails and 300 campsites and boasts some of Maine’s most mountainous terrain.

In honor of the 90th anniversary of Baxter State Park’s creation, Gov. Janet Mills has proclaimed March 3, 2021, as Baxter State Park Day.

In her proclamation, Mills urged “all Maine people to recognize and celebrate the determination, foresight and generosity of Governor Percival Baxter on this, the 90th anniversary of his original enduring gift to the people of the State of Maine.”

Maine’s 53rd governor, Baxter spent much of his life and his own personal fortune creating Baxter State Park. The process began on March 3, 1931, when he gifted the initial 5,960 acres, including Katahdin.

Over the course of the next three decades, Baxter purchased and donated an additional 27 parcels of land to the people of Maine through a series of deeds of trust. In these deeds, he specified that the park “shall forever be used for public park and recreational purposes, shall forever be left in the natural wild state, shall forever be kept as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.”

“The gift of Baxter State Park to the people of Maine is one of the most generous acts in the history of American land conservation,” said Aaron Megquier, executive director of Friends of Baxter State Park. It’s such a special and iconic place. “Without Percival Baxter’s generosity and perseverance, things could have gone very differently.”

In addition to his gifts of land, Baxter established an endowment for the park to ensure its financial independence. Consequently, the park is completely self-funded and receives no taxpayer dollars. It is also independently managed by the Baxter State Park Authority and is not part of the Maine State Park system managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

“Ninety years after Governor Baxter began his project to protect a burnt, logged landscape as a wilderness, the park continues to evolve into the independent, uniquely wild place he imagined,” said Baxter State Park Director Eben Sypitkowski. “Thank you to Governor Mills for recognizing this momentous gift to the people of Maine, which is peerless in scope and vision.”

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Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is the BDN Act Out editor, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. She can be reached at asarnacki@bangordailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram:...