Petition Signers in 80% of Maine Towns, 50 States, and 53 Nations
The petition was signed by more than 13,500 individuals living in 371 Maine towns, all 50 states, and 53 countries. The group also released a list of endorsements from groups, businesses, and individuals, and a compilation of public opinion surveys documenting overwhelming statewide support for a new National Park and National Recreation Area in Maine. The Bangor Daily News endorsed the proposal in an editorial published on Friday, November 6, 2015.
Gail Fanjoy, President of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “I am heartened and moved to be here today to bring attention to the widespread support that we are now seeing for an important economic development proposal for the Katahdin region—the creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area. As a lifelong citizen of Millinocket, with deep roots in the community, I am intimately familiar with the challenges we are facing on a daily basis. The Millinocket mill is gone for good and the East Millinocket mill has been sold for salvage. The Old Town mill is closed and the Lincoln mill has filed for bankruptcy. For many in our communities, despair has settled in as the situation has gone from bad to worse. We absolutely will continue to work hard to maintain as many forest products jobs as possible, but we also need economic diversification—which a National Park can provide.”
In March 2014, the Board of Directors of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce voted to endorse the proposed National Park and National Recreation Area that would be established on up to 150,000 acres east of Baxter State Park. Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. would donate land and a $40 million endowment toward establishment of the park, amounting to a $100 million total investment.
The proposal also has been endorsed by the Bangor City Council, Katahdin Area Rotary Club, Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce, Maine Innkeepers Association, and more than 200 individual businesses, including Wagner Forest Management, Pine State Trading Company, Epic Sports, and many more.
Notably, the petition released today includes signatures from 80 percent of Maine’s 458 towns, including the Katahdin region towns of Millinocket, East Millinocket, Medway, Mount Chase, Patten, Sherman, Island Falls, Linneus, Houlton, Indian Purchase, Chester, Lincoln, Brownville, and Springfield. Of the 13,580 petition signatures, 330 are from individuals living in 53 other countries—demonstrating that the concept of creating a new National Park in Maine could tap into the broad market of international visitors who come to the U.S. to visit national parks.
Lindsay Hill Downing of Mt. Chase said, “As a student at Katahdin High School, I never imagined that I would return to the Katahdin region because there was so little opportunity. But the prospect of a National Park and Recreation Area in my backyard has opened up a great new opportunity. A National Park will bring people to the Katahdin region and they will spend money. They will buy groceries at the family-owned grocery store, rent outdoor equipment for their adventures, and they will want exceptional lodging. Northern Maine is an astonishing place to visit; it has just gone unrecognized. A National Park will put Mt. Chase and the Katahdin region on the map. And I just know that once people have visited, they will return. This part of Maine is a treasure, worthy of national recognition.”
Allan Hewey, owner of The Charles Inn said, “Creating this new National Park seems like a ‘no brainer’ to me. I have been in the hospitality business for a long time and I know that people love to visit Maine. The National Park Service’s unparalleled brand recognition will attract people to interior and northern Maine who have never visited that area before, and they will love what they see. Most of those people will pass through Bangor, which will be good for our hotels, restaurants, retail stores, conference facilities, and airport. I look forward to hosting guests at The Charles Inn and giving them information about the nation’s newest National Park. We urge our Congressional delegation to help find a path to make this proposal a reality.”
Ken Olson, retired President and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said, “Today we’re here to demonstrate the strong support for creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area east of Baxter State Park. The proposal still faces some opposition—as did Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, and the Bigelow Preserve. But in each of those cases, the proposals moved forward on their merits. Proponents successfully made the case that protected parklands are, among other things, desirable community assets. They make nearby towns more economically vital and more attractive as places to visit, live, and start a business. I believe that supporters of this new National Park and National Recreation Area are on the right side of history. If this opportunity is seized, economic and other benefits will start flowing into a region that desperately needs this kind of investment. Let’s get this done in 2016, the 100th birthday of both Acadia National Park and the National Park Service.”
The news conference also featured speakers from communities around the state who signed the petition in support of the National Park and National Recreation Area. Each person explained why they believe the proposal will benefit Maine today and in the future.
The petition released today reinforces the results of numerous public opinion surveys conducted over the past five years.
Gail Fanjoy said, “It’s clear to me that the overwhelming majority of Maine people understand the economic and recreation benefits that would flow from a new National Park in the Katahdin region. The people who have signed this petition are but a small sampling of the tens of thousands of people who live right here in Maine who think creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area is a good idea.”
The group released opinion survey data from October 2011 and from April, May, and October 2015 showing overwhelming support. One survey conducted earlier this year, by a nationally recognized Republican polling firm, found that voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District support creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area by 67% to 25%.
The petition to Maine’s Congressional delegation—signed by 13,580 people, including 2,750 from Maine—reads:
“I urge Maine’s Congressional delegation to support the creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area east of Baxter State Park, as proposed by Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. The proposed National Park and National Recreation Area would have significant conservation and recreation benefits, and would stimulate much-needed economic development in the Katahdin region and beyond. That is why the proposal has earned the endorsement of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and Katahdin Rotary Club, among others. I urge Maine’s Congressional delegation to support legislation in Washington, D.C. to establish the new National Park and National Recreation Area.”