By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Bangor Daily News news story
MEDWAY, Maine — Residents will decide whether they support a proposed 150,000-acre national park and recreation area in a nonbinding referendum on June 23, officials said Monday.
The Board of Selectmen agreed informally last week to hold the referendum during the town’s annual election, town Administrative Assistant Kathy Lee said. No vote was taken.
“I think the main thing is that the selectmen are looking at it from our standpoint as something beneficial to the area, but we also want to see how the people feel,” board Chairman Bruce Jones said Monday.
The question on the ballot, which has yet to be written, will be something simple, such as “Do you favor the national park and recreation area?” Lee said.
“It’s a simple yes or no,” Lee said. “With the election, they [board members] will go with the will of the people. If 50 people show and they say yes, or no, that is what the board will follow.”
The decision follows one made by East Millinocket leaders last month to hold their own nonbinding referendum during a school budget validation vote on June 11.
Millinocket’s Town Council rejected holding a nonbinding vote and opposes the park. Several members have expressed confidence that they are following residents’ wishes.
Other communities north of the proposed park area, such as Sherman and Patten, have not stated their positions.
Until the Medway referendum occurs, its selectmen will continue to state their conditional support of the park plan. In a letter to the state’s federal delegation dated March 2, selectmen listed several conditions, including evidence that the park would benefit the area, the park not exceeding 150,000 acres and the region’s clean-air regulations not being stiffened. Selectmen also sought assurances that the U.S. National Park Service give preference to Maine companies for concession, outfitter and guide contracts and permits; that snowmobile trail access be guaranteed; hunting within the recreation area be regulated only by state laws; and all easements and agreements on the property be maintained.
The conditions mirror a list issued last month of stipulations that park proponent Lucas St. Clair said he would honor. The son of entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, St. Clair proposes to give the park service 75,000 acres for a national park and a 75,000-acre recreation area on family-owned lands east of Baxter State Park in 2016.
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 other industries.