By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
Gov. Paul LePage is refusing to put signs along state roads showing the way to Maine’s national monument, pending the outcome of a federal review, state officials said Friday.
The governor won’t allow official signs for Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument to be placed along Interstate 95 and Routes 11, 157 and 159 — all Katahdin region main roads — until federal officials determine whether the executive order creating the monument was valid, Maine Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said.
“While it is under review, we really have to wait for that decision,” Talbot said Friday. “What we don’t want to do is commit taxpayers’ money to signage or any type of project without knowing that it [the monument] is in place and that everyone is on board with it.”
LePage’s determination came in response to monument Superintendent Tim Hudson’s request for the state to install the signs. Hudson learned of the decision in a letter that he said he received on Friday from the DOT, and said he is working with local towns to place signs on their roads.
The six planned signs, which have not been made, would tell motorists that they could find the monument via I-95’s Island Falls, Medway and Sherman exits, Hudson said, and are typically used on interstate highways.
President Donald Trump on April 26 ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior to review whether 27 monuments, including Maine’s, were created in compliance with the Antiquities Act, which allows presidents to use executive orders to preserve significant natural features.
Interior officials will review whether the Katahdin Woods proposal was adequately vetted by stakeholders before its creation. The review is due to finish on Aug. 24.
The ban comes as National Park Service workers prepare for the monument’s first full season, which is expected to bolster the local economy. Its main entrance is due to open Thursday, Hudson said. Its north entrance opened on May 13.
Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated 87,563 acres east of Baxter State Park to the nation when then-President Obama signed an executive order in August 2016, called LePage’s ban “remarkably irresponsible.”
“We are on the list [of reviewed monuments] because of the governor and the governor uses the fact that we’re on the list as an excuse to not put signs up to get visitors to where they want to go,” St. Clair said Friday.
Visitors will still find the monument, Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce President Gail Fanjoy said — but LePage will not have made it easy.
“The fact that our governor is blocking signage is telling people that the region is not open for business,” Fanjoy said, calling the ban mean-spirited. “He should be doing the opposite of what he is doing.”