A New National Park & Recreation Area in Northern Maine

2016 Update: As part of the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary in 2016, there is a possibility that President Obama will use his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate the land owned by Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. as a National Monument as a first step towards a National Park and National Recreation Area. Many of our most beloved national parks, including Acadia, the Grand Canyon, and Zion were initially designated as national monuments, and later became national parks. The goal is to incorporate all of the specific provisions below relating to the National Park and National Recreation Area into the National Monument.

View maps of the land owned by Elliotsville Plantation and get directions to the Katahdin Loop Road here.

NRCM supports the creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area on about 150,000 acres of forestland east of Baxter State Park, as proposed by Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI). This proposal has evolved considerably since 2011, based on significant input from residents and businesses in the Katahdin region, and now has earned the support of organizations such as the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Maine Innkeepers Association and Katahdin Area Rotary Club.

NRCM is pleased to be working with residents and businesses in the Katahdin region, and people across the state, to advance what could become a major new destination for our state and asset for our economy. We have been meeting with a broad range of people to listen to their views, answer questions, and build support.

On a map, the land proposed for the National Park and National Recreation Area looks like a tall rectangle abutting the eastern border of Baxter State Park. The East Branch of the Penobscot River divides the land diagonally from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. EPI currently owns about 100,000 acres in this area, and is seeking to purchase additional lands there, if they become available, up to about 150,000 acres total.

EPI has offered to donate about 75,000 acres to be designated a National Park and 75,000 acres that would be designated as a National Recreation Area. EPI also proposes to raise a $40 million endowment to support operations.

The land west of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, designated as a National Park, will be open for hiking, paddling, wildlife watching, bicycling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and other activities normally found in national parks. The land east of the river will be a National Recreation Area available for all of those activities plus hunting and snowmobiling. EPI has given this project the name of Katahdin Woods & Waters, reflecting the rich combination of unbroken forestlands and remote rivers located in the shadow of Maine’s most majestic mountain.

The land includes spectacular views of Mount Katahdin, about 25 miles of the East Branch of the Penobscot River, including four spectacular rapids and falls, the lower reaches of Wassataquoik Stream, which flows out of Baxter State Park, the lower reaches of the Sebois River, and several beautiful ponds. It is home to moose, bear, lynx, and many bird species. Click here for more details about the conservation value of this land.

Establishing the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Park and National Recreation Area will require an act of Congress. Key to passage of the legislation will be support from Maine Senators King and Collins and Representatives Pingree and Poliquin. That is why groups such as the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Katahdin Area Rotary Club, and individual businesses and residents from the area and across Maine have been contacting Maine’s Congressional delegation to urge them to support the proposed Katahdin Woods & Waters National Park and National Recreation Area.

In addition to bringing national recognition to a special part of Maine, creation of a new National Park would be good for Maine’s economy. As demonstrated by two economic studies by Headwaters Economics, areas across the country with national parks that are of a similar size and similar rural location have experienced higher personal income and job growth than the U.S. average, and higher personal income and job growth than Penobscot and Piscataquis counties over the last forty years. The study also concluded that if this National Park and National Recreation Area attracted 15% of the annual visitors to Acadia National Park, then it would create more than 450 jobs. This would be highly beneficial for an area of the state seeking economic development.

National parks are considered the gold standard for protecting beautiful natural areas that enrich our lives. Many people will come to visit an area simply because there is a national park. EPI’s land includes spectacular views of Katahdin, uncommon ecological features, two of Maine’s most pristine rivers, prime wildlife habitat for iconic and rare species, and extensive Native American history. These qualities make the land a prime candidate for this distinguished designation.

The Katahdin Woods & Waters area now has an 18-mile Loop Road that is open to the public, and NRCM is helping organize events to introduce people to the land. The best way to understand the value of this project is by visiting the land.

If you have questions about the proposed National Park and National Recreation Area, would like to visit the land, are interested in contacting Maine’s Congressional delegation, or would like to have someone come and speak to your group about the proposed National Park and National Recreation Area, contact Cathy Johnson, NRCM Forests and Wildlife Project Director at cjohnson@nrcm.org or (207) 430-0109 or Eliza Donoghue, NRCM Forests and Wildlife Policy Advocate and Outreach Coordinator at eliza@nrcm.org or (207) 430-0118.

 

Banner photo: Moon Over Katahdin by Bill Duffy