A Down East town may vote later this year to annex 10,400 acres from neighboring unorganized territories where a massive veterans historical park and tourist destination has been proposed.
Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill earlier this month that allows Columbia Falls to annex 16-square miles of uninhabited land from the unorganized townships of Centerville and T19. The land is owned by Morrill Worcester, the founder of Wreaths Across America, and is planned to be the site of the Worcester family’s proposed Flagpole of Freedom Park.
Adding the forest land that the family uses for their wreath company to Columbia Falls would increase the size of the 25-square-mile Washington County town by about 65 percent and put all of the local project permitting and taxes under a single municipality.
The absorption of the land must be approved at a town meeting. If it goes through, Columbia Falls would begin to reap the benefits of the land’s property taxes. Unorganized township property taxes go to the state.
A town official earlier this week said a referendum date had not yet been set, but a scheduling decision would likely be made this summer.
Morrill Worcester has advertised the Flagpole of Freedom Park as an apolitical destination that would feature a 1,461-foot-tall observation tower that would double as the world’s tallest flagpole.
The park would also have miles of remembrance walls honoring all 24 million deceased American veterans, six history museums and a village-like setting with hotels, restaurants and an events venue.
The bill was signed into law by Mills on April 18. Local leaders have praised the project and the move to get the process rolling.
“The park will stabilize and extend the tourism season, mitigate crowds in Acadia, create jobs and successfully build an economic engine in Down East Maine,” said Tony Santiago, chair of the Columbia Falls Select Board. “When the Worcesters shared the details of this park I was hopeful for our town’s future. Adding this taxable land to our town will also benefit existing taxpayers.”
The project is expected to cost up to $1 billion, and the Worcester family is currently raising money for the for-profit venture through private investment, a “foundership” program where people can donate money in exchange for lifelong access to the park and corporate sponsorships.
The annexation vote would be one step in what’s expected to be years of permitting. Needed approvals for the ambitious project will range from local building permits to greenlights from the Federal Aviation Administration for the colossal flagpole.
The proposed park’s mission is to honor veterans and create a world-class tourist destination in Washington County, according to Worcester.
“Honoring veterans has been my life’s work and I hope it’s what I’m remembered for,” he said. “Nothing is more gratifying than to picture our balsam farm as a national destination for veterans and their families, and one that will teach future generations about America’s great history.”
The family is aiming to complete the first phase of the park and have it open to the public by July 4, 2026.