The North Maine parkland is open for recreation.
by Deidre Fleming
Portland Press Herald news story
Just like that tree falling in a forest, if a park full of trees doesn’t have a Facebook page for people to hear of it, does it make any noise?
And of course, what happens if it does?
The latter will be answered over the next year in the Katahdin region.
The recently dubbed Katahdin Woods and Waters Recreation Area, the parkland owned and recently opened to more user groups by Roxanne Quimby and her children, went on Facebook in the last month.
In January, Elliotsville Plantation, the nonprofit agency that manages the land, also launched its website, www.katahdinwoods.org.
This land lies to the east of Baxter State Park, and boasts logging roads for hiking, mountain biking and hunting, as well as the East Branch of the Penobscot River and 100,000 acres of ponds, streams and forestland.
Already this winter the land is being used by snowmobilers, winter mountain bikers and Nordic skiers, said Elliotsville Plantation’s new spokesman, Ian Grady.
One horse-riding Maine guide is working on a new backcountry trip by horseback, Grady said, pleased with the direction the project is going.
Grady said the hope is to build use, to welcome a wide range of users and then take it from there – the end goal being the national park Quimby has wanted to build on the land for a decade. Since September the future creation of a national recreation area has also been discussed. This type of National Park Service unit allows hunting.
“Right now the focus is at the local and state level to help people learn about this amazing resource that could one day be a national park. That certainly is the ultimate goal,” Grady said.
“There is no definite timeline for that, and right now the big focus is getting folks to experience it.”
In September, 40,000 of the 100,000 acres owned by Quimby was opened to hunting for the first time by Quimby’s son, Lucas St. Clair, who is now the president of Elliotsville Plantation.
He said it was an important step in showing a good-faith approach to the local communities, which are made up of outdoor folks who enjoy hunting and snowmobiling, activities previously forbidden on Quimby’s land.
At that time St. Clair said he needed local support before being able to pursue support at the congressional level for a national park in the region.
The website and the Facebook page appear an important first step in gathering that support.
In its first month, the recreation area’s Facebook page has gotten 1,748 likes. The website’s homepage has a large area inviting submitted comments, promising it’s “open for suggestion.”
That was St. Clair’s promise when he opened the land to hunting five months ago. He said he was eager to listen to other Mainers, and was seeking input from them.
Many in the Katahdin region said he appeared sincere.
Now that the virtual public hearing hall is open for all to comment, those promises will be tested and maybe aired for all to hear.
“We want to encourage folks to come to the land and experience the area,” Grady said. “It’s tough to know how many people come on and off the land. It’s hard to keep track of the exact number accessing it.
“We are going to focus on continuing the conversation, getting more people on the land and experiencing it.”