A group of business owners gathered today in Bangor to announce its strong support for the creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area on 150,000 acres of land east of Baxter State Park. The group today sent letters to Maine’s congressional delegation urging their support for the project and released a “conceptual framework” that describes key features of the proposal that has earned their support.
More than 200 Maine businesses, mostly from the Greater Katahdin and Bangor regions have signed on to support a new National Park and National Recreation Area. These businesses include hotels, restaurants, retail stores, outdoor guides, real estate firms, small technology companies, hardware stores and more who believe that creating a new National Park and National Recreation Area in Maine would help create jobs and provide positive benefits for Maine’s economy.
Some of the 200 businesses supporting a new National Park and National Recreation Area include (as examples): Baxter Park Inn (Millinocket), Two Rivers Canoe & Tackle (Medway), Crandall’s Hardware (East Millinocket), Back Country Excursions, LLC (Parsonsfield), Shin Pond Village (Shin Pond), LeVasseur Hardware (Millinocket), Country North Gifts (Houlton), Merchants on the Corner (Presque Isle), Pine State Trading Company (Gardiner), Island Falls Canoe (Atkinson), University Inn (Orono), The Sewall House (Island Falls), and Syncopation Software (Bangor).
The letter to Maine’s congressional delegation says, in part, “We believe a new National Park and National Recreation Area near Katahdin could be an exciting destination that introduces visitors to Maine’s inland forests, rivers, wildlife and mountains, and the communities and businesses nearby.”
The letter to the delegation says the project would include “a powerful combination of recreation opportunities that would attract visitors year-round. To us, this seems like a great idea for the region and the state as a whole.”
The National Park and National Recreation Area also has been endorsed by the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, Katahdin Area Rotary Club, the Great Houlton Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Medway and the Maine Innkeepers Association, each of which has sent letters to Maine’s congressional delegation. Today’s announcement also comes on the heels of a vote earlier in the week by the Bangor City Council in favor of a resolution supporting the concept of a new National Park and National Recreation Area as part of a broad economic diversification strategy.
Speaking at today’s news conference, Joe Pratt, owner of Sherman Wood Works, said, “This project earns our support because it would create jobs and be good for Maine’s economy. There will be an immediate need for new overnight accommodations and dining establishments in the region, plus new opportunities for registered Maine guides and outdoor recreation businesses. Let’s come together and make it happen.”
Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce, said, “I support this project because I care so deeply about the future of our communities. The proposed National Park and National Recreation Area is not a silver bullet. It is but one piece of a larger puzzle that needs to be assembled. But it is an important piece—for our region and for the state of Maine.”
Matt Polstein, owner of Twin Pine Camps on Millinocket Lake, said, “Designating these lands as a National Park and National Recreation Area will create the type of high- wage, non-exportable jobs that are desperately needed in the Katahdin Region, while also conserving and preserving an exceptional natural and historic resource for the benefit of future generations of Mainers.”
Chris Dalton, owner of Syncopation Software in Bangor, said “My business could be located anywhere, but we came here because of the beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities. I know that having a second national park in the region would bring more visitors here, and give them reasons to stay—and that would be great for Maine’s future.”
Brad Ryder, owner of Epic Sports in Bangor said “There’s little doubt in my mind that creation of a new National Park and Recreation Area would be great for business. I’m particularly excited about the possibility of a new signature destination that draws people to Maine’s outstanding inland mountains, forests, and waterways—and leaves them with a desire to come back for more.”
University of Maine resource economist Robert Lilieholm also participated in today’s news conference. Lilieholm was an expert reviewer of two economic studies conducted in 2013 that projected that the proposed National Park and National Recreation Area could generate 450 to 1000 jobs. Lilieholm said, “This is not a question of timber versus recreation – both have been and will continue to be critical to the Katahdin Region’s future. Rather, it is a question of whether a National Park and National Recreation Area can provide an additional anchor for the area’s economy and help reverse the area’s distressed conditions. I strongly believe that it can.”
The conceptual framework document describes the key features for the project that have earned the support of business owners, and which Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (EPI) is committed to secure in legislation. These features include:
- The project would be 150,000 acres, with a $40 million endowment secured by EPI to help pay for operations and maintenance;
- Include a National Park that would provide recreation opportunities such as hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, and cross-country skiing;
- Include a National Recreation Area (NRA) which would permanently protect access for hunting and snowmobiling, in addition to the activities allowed in the National Park;
- Include snowmobile trails in the NRA, including a permanent north-south route and an east-west route, generally along existing ITS 85, ITS 83, and the existing Club Trail 114;
- Ensure that business and forest products industry activities in the region would be exempt from any new or additional Clean Air Act requirements;
- Ensure that the National Park Service would have no authority over timber harvesting outside the boundary of the National Park and National Recreation Area, and would be prohibited from asserting a “buffer” of any kind;
- Ensure that any management plan honor and educate the public about the rich cultural logging heritage of the North Maine Woods;
- Require local timber be used for infrastructure, to the extent possible.
- Require the National Park Service to give preference to Maine-based companies for concession, outfitter and guide contracts and permits; and
- Ensure that Maine citizens will have input on the project’s management plan through an ongoing advisory committee.