By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
MEDWAY, Maine — Medway’s Board of Selectmen wants a proposed North Woods national park to be no larger than 150,000 acres and East Millinocket’s leaders seek a voice in any park legislation, according to letters the towns are sending to the state’s congressional delegation.
Acting in response to a request from U.S. Sen. Angus King, selectmen in each town are finalizing letters regarding the park proposed by Lucas St. Clair that will be mailed next week, officials said. Medway will likely hold public hearings to discuss the park plan, board Chairman Bruce Jones said Wednesday. No hearing dates have been set.
“A lot of changes [in the park proposal] have occurred in the last few years,” Jones said.
Millinocket officials said on Feb. 7 that King had asked them to write their requirements and concerns about a park should federal legislation be offered. Congress creates national parks, and the delegation has said it won’t draft a park bill without significant local support for it. Millinocket officials are discussing their requirements for a park.
The proposal includes a 75,000-acre national park and a 75,000-acre recreation area on land east of Baxter State Park. Park opponents have said they fear a park would bring federal authority into Maine, cramp the state’s forest products industries with tighter air-quality restrictions, generate only low-paying jobs and morph into a 3.2-million-acre park plan offered in the 1990s.
Proponents said a park would generate 400 to 1,000 jobs, be maintained by $40 million in private endowments, diversify a Katahdin region economy devastated by the closure of two paper mills and coexist with existing industries.
East Millinocket Selectman Mark Marston was the sole opponent in a 4-1 vote on Monday to mail the letter. Medway’s board, which met the same night, agreed unanimously on its mailing.
“We understand the many concerns of our congressional delegation and hope that we may be part of the process in providing solutions so that the potential park will not only benefit the immediate area, but that of our nation as a whole,” East Millinocket’s letter states.
Board Chairman Mark Scally, who wrote the letter, said it does not endorse the project.
Medway’s approach is different. Its selectmen endorse the park, provided it does not exceed 150,000 acres; all area recreational activities — including snowmobiling, use of all-terrain vehicles, hunting and fishing — are allowed in the recreation area; and if area federal air quality standards remain unchanged. Medway also seeks that the recreation area be co-managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Medway’s letter, Jones said, represents only the views of its board, not Medway’s residents.
St. Clair spokesman David Farmer said both towns’ letters very much agree with St. Clair’s goals, although precisely what form the local representation in park development and management would take is undetermined.
“We have to work all that out, but we are absolutely committed to there being a local voice and presence here,” Farmer said.