By Jim Glavine, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
Having resided in the Moosehead Lake region for many years, I am very familiar with the woods and waters of Maine’s North Woods and also with the economic challenges of life in the shadow of not only Mount Katahdin, but of the waning forest products-based economy.
Four years ago, I relocated to Bar Harbor in large part due to the incredible beauty of the permanently conserved lands on this island that we call Acadia National Park. I am humbly privileged to work as a tour guide in Acadia and, as such, I am privy to the thousands of comments and accolades regarding the majestic and unparalleled beauty of this special place, just last year named “America’s Favorite Place” by viewers of “Good Morning America.”
Those comments represent the sentiments of the 2.5 million-3 million visitors who come to Acadia every year from across this nation and across the globe. What made this all possible was the forethought and generosity of local and summer residents and, of course, the wisdom of Congress, who in 1919 agreed that it was worthy of permanent preservation for the enjoyment of future generations.
In my daily tours here, I talk of the flora and fauna, the geology, the marine life, the glaciers that formed these lakes and mountains, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets and the unique character of the land where the mountains meet the sea. But I also speak with great reverence of those who had the courage to stand up to naysayers who believed these lands had “higher and better” uses and those who, with narrow-minded focus, would keep them for their own uses, enjoyment and exploitations.
Yes, those who protected this land had deep pockets, but it was their commitment to saving these special places for future generations that really resulted in the broad public access and true conservation we enjoy today. They saw beyond the events of the day and looked forward with the knowledge that their actions would protect forever a wide range of uses and enjoyment by those who would follow them through these woods and waters and across these beautiful mountains.
One should also note that in many ways this island is like an oasis in the midst of an economically depressed region and state. And that has everything to do with this national park. About a quarter of the population of North America lives within a 12-hour drive of this region.
Today, Maine is faced with another opportunity to stand out as a leader in this nation, by moving forward with a plan to protect a large swath of our beautiful North Woods. The formation of another national park in those wooded lands to add to the existing list of just 58 such magnificently protected places is a must-do, not only for the future generations who will look back with reverence to our forethought and generosity, but for current residents who will benefit greatly from the positive economic impact to this hard-hit region.
The region has so much to offer, and there are so many who will come. Maine’s North Woods has more than enough room to accommodate every interest, so there’s no need to argue about the loss of privileges.
It’s a different time now, and there’s an opportunity to shape the future of the Katahdin region. This is an opportunity that shouldn’t be squandered. Residents of the Katahdin region should start acting as if they belong to a community with a common goal rather than focus on their differences.
Maine’s North Woods are a national treasure that many will visit, just as millions today visit the national treasure that is Acadia National Park.
Jim Glavine, a Bangor native, lives in Bar Harbor where he works as a tour guide in Acadia National Park.