By Georgia Manzo, Bangor Daily News op-ed
I am writing to express my personal support for the proposed national park and national recreation or national monument in the Katahdin Region and applaud the recent Bangor Daily News endorsement.
I grew up in Little Italy in Millinocket; my grandfather and father worked their entire adult lives at Great Northern Paper. I worked for the forest products industry for 28 years and for the hydropower industry for seven. My husband is a forester. I’m an apolitical, civic-minded, peace-loving Katahdin-region author, mother of two, grandmother of two, and I’m extremely proud of the region’s local heritage and vivid historical legacy. The following are points to consider.
This national park would provide the option of structured tourism for those who are less confident in their ability to strike out on their own in the Maine woods. The national park designation is powerful; it belongs to all of us, and we seek it out. What an asset two diverse national parks in the state of Maine would be to our state’s economy and natural resources legacy. Many people will come to experience interior Maine with its forests, mountains and rivers; and if just 10 percent of Acadia National Park visitors travel north, that represents approximately 300,000 people. Every town and city from Bar Harbor to Bangor and throughout the Katahdin region would benefit.
The wood fiber on these lands has already been removed from industrial harvesting but even if it were available, it represents only about 1 percent of the basket. The forest products industry will not be negatively impacted by this proposal. If anything, it will be co-dependent. The park infrastructure will be built using local resources, and the surrounding towns will need to grow and strengthen to accommodate visitors and new residents. Rights of way, forest products management for wildlife habitat in the recreation area, and interpretive signage about the benefits of the forest products industry will be included.
The national recreation area would permanently protect critical snowmobile trails and access to hunting so that there will forever be a place where future generations can have this experience, regardless of changes in regional ownership or philosophies.
There will be a $40 million endowment established to pay for operating the park and recreation area. The current framework calls for an advisory committee of local stakeholders to provide input and recommendations to the National Park Service on the development of the management plan.
More than 200 Maine businesses last year publicly expressed their support for the proposed national park and national recreation area. More have expressed their support since the initial list came out last March.
Any land within the proposed boundary that is not currently owned by Elliotsville Plantation Inc. remains private unless a willing owner decides to donate it to the American people.
More than ever, we need jobs of all types in the Katahdin region. This park will create critically needed private- and public-sector jobs within the National Park Service and in the surrounding communities.
Fear or mistrust of the federal government is not a reasonable argument against this proposal.
I hope folks who are in favor of the proposed park and recreation area or national monument will soon find their voice and that those who have questions will reach out to katahdinwoods.org to learn more. This is not a time for apathy. I have to go with my conscience, my homework and my experience; and all shout at me that this phenomenal opportunity should be supported before it slips away.
Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins and Reps. Bruce Poliquin and Chellie Pingree must steer the Katahdin region, the state of Maine and the nation toward the inclusion of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Park and National Recreation Area into the proud family of U.S. national parks — for the conservation of the land, the economic development of the region and the state, and the enjoyment of the nation and the world.
Let’s get this done.
Georgia Manzo resides at South Twin Lake, Indian Purchase 4 Township; serves on the board of directors of the Katahdin Region Chamber of Commerce; and is sole proprietor of Thyme & Moss Publishing.