by the Associated Press
Gov. John Baldacci announced Friday that a land-purchase deal had been reached to add more than 6,000 acres, including the pristine Katahdin Lake, seen here, to Baxter State Park. Some 2,000 of those acres near the lake will be open to hunters and snowmobilers. A 4,000-acre parcel that includes Katahdin Lake has been added to Baxter State Park, fulfilling its benefactor’s vision and providing the ultimate holiday gift to the people of Maine, Gov. John Baldacci announced Friday.
The announcement followed completion of the purchase Thursday by the Trust for Public Land, which negotiated the deal with Gardner Land Co., led a $14 million private fundraising campaign and transferred the deed to the Baxter State Park Authority.
The deal also includes an additional 2,000 acres north of the lake that will be open to hunters and snowmobilers and be managed by the Maine Department of Conservation.
Baxter State Park, a 200,000-acre rectangle that includes Mount Katahdin, was donated by former Gov. Percival Baxter decades ago with the proviso that it remain “forever wild.” Over the years, Baxter had acquired land for inclusion in the northern Maine park but was never able to add Katahdin Lake, seen as a missing crown jewel.
In addition to miles of pristine lake frontage, the addition to the park includes old-growth forest and spectacular views of mile-high Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
“We could not think of a better holiday gift for the people of Maine. In a way it is a gift to ourselves, as so many Mainers helped to make this dream a reality,” Baldacci said in a statement preceding announcements in Millinocket and Portland.
“I am pleased that we have been able to deliver Katahdin Lake to the people of Maine, and to salute the conservation vision of Governor Baxter. May we continue to honor this vision, and regard today’s achievement as not an end, but another milestone on our journey to keep the special places in Maine special,” the governor said.
More than 1,000 individuals, foundations and corporations contributed to the fundraising campaign within the 14-month time period set out in the agreement, said Sam Hodder, senior project manager at the Trust for Public Land.
Donations came from as far away as Alaska, but 57 percent came from year-round Maine residents, Hodder said.
Buzz Caverly, the former park superintendent who co-chaired the fundraising campaign and led trips to the lake to show potential donors what their investment might preserve, hailed the purchase as the most extraordinary event in park history since Baxter purchased his last 7,000 acres in 1962, seven years before his death.
“Until that time, and for the remainder of his life, he could not find a willing seller for the Katahdin Lake lands. Today, the final chapter of this book has been written, for his goal of 1921 has been achieved. This old ranger of 46 years is one happy camper,” Caverly said.