By Buzz Caverly, Special to the BDN
Bangor Daily News op-ed
Fifty-five years ago, as a young man shortly out of high school, I was hired as a Baxter State Park ranger and assigned to the Russell Pond campground in the heart of the Wassataquoik Valley, at the eastern edge of the park.
For years, I managed a very small, remote wilderness campground and was responsible for a foot patrol area from May to October each year. This area consisted of portions of T3-R9, T4-R8 and T4-R9, a total of about 35 miles of trail system.
The job consisted of campground maintenance, which included outlying campsites at Wassataquoik Lake, Little Wassataquoik Lake, Davis Pond, trail maintenance and frequent foot patrols down Wassataquoik Stream to the park’s eastern boundary — and public relations. Public relations with hikers and campers visiting this backcountry were a key part of the job. Although this area was extremely remote and would be considered one of the natural wild areas within our state, there were frequent visits by short- and long-term campers.
For those staying at Russell Pond for a day or more, there were two extraordinary hikes. One would take them to Wassataquoik Lake and Green Falls. The other would take them down the historic Wassataquoik Tote Road to Grand Falls and onward to the park’s most eastern boundary.
This inner sanctum of Baxter State Park was tranquil and offered a wilderness experience for those who loved nature in its natural state and were willing to walk. Civilization was left far behind, and these visitors experienced nature at peace in its finest form.
I spent many hours along Wassataquoik Stream, not only during specific assignments but even after transferring and moving to other responsibilities within the park. I visited the Wassataquoik Valley at every opportunity during my 46-year tenure in the park.
During the falls of 1960 and 1961, after leaving the park, I worked as a temporary game warden during the hunting season in the Sherman/Patten area. Then, I had the opportunity to familiarize myself with the lands from the East Branch of the Penobscot River to the Baxter boundary.
Over the years, these experiences within this vast wilderness have been close to my heart, and I consider protection of the natural resources in their natural, wild state as a jewel within our state, which never should be compromised.
During the last several years, the lands adjoining Baxter State Park on the east have been acquired by Roxanne Quimby. As the owner, she is committed to ensuring these lands are preserved, protected and available for recreational opportunities for generations to come. She has offered them as a North Woods National Park. Her generosity and love for the area are consistent with what former Gov. Percival P. Baxter dreamed of and, after 32 years, succeeded in doing in creating Baxter State Park. As is the case today, his effort was resisted and consequently, in order to achieve his goal, he purchased, with his own money, 201,018 acres via 28 different deeds.
The lands offered today as a North Woods national park, when accepted, I believe, will be as valuable to future generations as Baxter State Park is to our generation today. Consequently, I support this effort and urge all Maine people and their representatives, state and federal, to make a commitment to a North Woods national park.
There are some who will argue that such a plan would take over Baxter, but I am confident that a new park will not provide such a threat to the 28 deeds provided by Gov. Baxter over 32 years. He knew the heart and soul of Maine people. He was confident they would not violate this solemn trust.
Baxter and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway provide a unique experience that many seek. The Wassataquoik Stream and East Branch of the Penobscot River provide a rare opportunity to allow more people to visit Maine’s wilderness. Therefore, I support this project and urge, for the sake of our state, the economy of the Katahdin region and preservation of a precious area, that we join in the effort to create a North Woods National Park.
I sincerely believe with all my heart that these lands belong to the ages and that the recreational opportunities available in this wild area will be preserved for others to visit. This area will represent Maine proudly for all Americans and their guests.
Irvin “Buzz” Caverly of Corinth worked at Baxter State Park from 1960 to 2005. He was park director for 24 years.