By Evan Belanger, BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor City Council will consider next week a resolution to decide whether the city supports the proposed creation of a national park and recreation area in Katahdin region.
But after hearing nearly an hour of public comment from supporters and detractors from across the state, a council committee decided Monday it will rewrite a resolution proposed by Councilor Sean Faircloth to declare support for the project.
Voting 3-2, the council’s Business and Economic Development Committee approved the amendment proposed by Councilor Josh Plourde to rewrite the resolution.
Plourde proposed a resolution that would declare if a national park were established, it would benefit Bangor. He said he would work with Faircloth to draft the new resolution and that the council would discuss the new draft during its pre-council meeting Monday.
Councilors Gibran Graham and David Nealley dissented on the resolution while Plourde, Faircloth and Councilor Joe Baldacci voted in favor.
While the exact language of the new resolution is yet to be determined, Faircloth’s original draft stated that the proposal “will have a major impact on all the communities of the entire eastern and northern Maine region.”
It cites two economic studies by Headwaters Economics, a Montana-based research group, predicting the park could generate 450 to 1,000 jobs for the region. Both studies were conducted at the request of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., which is proposing to donate the land for the park.
Faircloth said after Tuesday’s meeting he is not opposed to rewriting the resolution.
“For me, the key thing is the economic development for our region,” he said.
During the committee meeting, councilors heard 25 minutes each of public comments from supporters and opponents.
Supporters said the park would create jobs and boost the region’s economy as well as protect wildlife and recreation. They included former Bangor Mayor John Rohman, who said whatever brings jobs to Northern Maine helps Bangor.
“This will support not only the greater Bangor region, but frankly the folks in Millinocket and East Millinocket just north of us,” he said. “I hope when we get beyond the fear factor, we’ll have a lot of support for this.”
Opponents said the proposed park would interfere with the forest products industry as well as recreational activities such as hunting and snowmobiling. They included East Millinocket Selectman Mark Marston, who urged the council to wait until a June 11 referendum in which Millinocket voters will decide whether to support the proposed national park.
“The national park is going to affect the ability to harvest timber in the area,” he said, adding that the forest products industry is “alive and well.”
“It’s an $8 billion industry,” he said.
Millinocket Town Manager Margaret Daigle, who said she is neither a supporter or an opponent, told the Bangor committee Tuesday that officials were working there to arrange a forum between the two sides.
She said they hope to have a representative from the National Parks Service to get an accurate vision of what the park would mean for the region as well as dispel fears.
David Farmer, a spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation, said after the meeting that community support will help when they approach Congress about creating the park.
He said the donation would be 150,000 acres, including a national park and a national recreation area. The national recreation area, he said, would preserve land for activities such as hunting and snowmobiling.
Detractors said Elliotsville Plantation does not actually own all of the land it is proposing to donate for the park.