EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Some Katahdin region leaders told the National Park Service’s top administrator Monday that a monument proposed by Roxanne Quimby’s family for lands east of Baxter State Park was the vision of a millionaire who was using her money and influence to control their destiny.
Millinocket Town Councilor Michael Madore said that as a member of the National Park Foundation, Quimby had “a conflict of influence” over state and local leaders who have overwhelmingly opposed her proposal for eight years because she and her son, Lucas St. Clair, have greater access to park leaders and President Barack Obama than they do.
“It is tiring, this perpetual cycle of saying no,” Madore told National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis and U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, during a 2½-hour meeting at Katahdin Region Higher Education Center in East Millinocket. Jarvis and King are scheduled to appear at a second public forum at the Collins Center for the Arts on the University of Maine campus in Orono at 5 p.m.
Madore asked, “Why are we continuing to re-examine the same questions? Is it really for the good of Maine, or is it that Mrs. Quimby has an idea in her mind that she wants?”
“No governing body has recommended or wants this park or monument, not on any level,” Madore said, later adding, “this would be in our backyard. We ask that you please let this go, finally.”
Jarvis met at the education center with selectmen and town councilors from East Millinocket, Medway, Millinocket, Mount Chase, Patten, Sherman and Stacyville, who were themselves gathered in the same room for the first time in decades.
Out of the approximately 75 people there, two spoke in favor of the monument. The meeting was cordial but often tense. One man, a proposal opponent, was ejected for using an obscenity.
Patten Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Schmidt III said that while Patten residents had voted against the proposal at an April referendum, “a good core” of local businesses supported the plan, which he said was a great opportunity.
“I believe we have the ability to channel this river in a direction that can serve us best,” Schmidt said.
Another man in the audience said that he represented “a silent majority” who supported the Quimby plan.
The forum followed a breakfast with Jarvis and the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce at River Driver’s restaurant just north of Millinocket.
No one can stop the president from signing an executive order turning Quimby’s land into a monument, King said. Obama has until Jan. 19, 2017, the very last day of his administration, to issue an executive order creating a national monument. Such monuments often become national parks later.
Obama, King said, sent Jarvis to Maine to gauge local response to the Quimby proposal and advise him. Jarvis said he appreciated the concerns residents have.
“I heard a lot of real deep honesty and I appreciate that. No one was holding back and that’s good, too,” Jarvis said. “I know some of you are worried in a big, big way and adamantly opposed to this.”
Jarvis said that Quimby had no conflict because she was doing what the foundation was established to do — raising money and donating land to the national park system. The Rockefeller family acted much the same way in establishing Acadia National Park, he said.
Jarvis said he has visited Quimby’s approximately 87,500-acre parcel four times and that it fits park service criteria in terms of its suitability, feasibility and significance. However, its feasibility might be weak. Jarvis said there “is the potential” for private landowners to cut off access to Quimby’s land, which he said would be “tragic,” but later said that he didn’t think such an occurrence was realistic.
Millinocket Town Council Chairman Richard Angotti Jr. said that the monument proposal lacked details in the same manner as the park proposal. Jarvis said the monument will likely generate $4 for its local economy for every federal dollar invested in it, but that estimate is a national average.
The park service has done no specific estimates on the economic impact of designating Quimby’s land a monument, Jarvis said.
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