BANGOR — Roxanne Quimby’s son is asking the Penobscot County commissioners to delay a planned decision Tuesday whether to support or oppose Quimby’s proposed 70,000-acre national park.
Lucas St. Clair wrote in a letter dated Sunday to the commission that officials from Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the nonprofit foundation he describes as working to conserve land and preserve open spaces for public benefit, should meet with commissioners to hear air concerns before a decision is made.
“Elliotsville is in the process of evaluating the possibilities for the future of our property, with an emphasis on options that preserve access for the future use and enjoyment of all Mainers for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other outdoor recreation,” St. Clair, president of the foundation’s board of directors, said in the letter.
“We would respectfully ask the commission not to take any action or position tomorrow that offers an official county position on what Elliotsville should or should not be allowed to do with our private property without first having a dialogue with us as the property owner in question,” the letter states.
“We believe such a request is a reasonable one for any property owner to make whenever an outside group wants to bring the subject of a property owner’s lands before a governing body such as the commission,” the letter continues.
Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue is expected to ask the commission to oppose the park plan during its meeting Tuesday. The meeting is due to start at 9 a.m. and Conlogue is scheduled to make his presentation at 9:15 a.m. He was originally set to speak about 35 minutes later, but County Administrator William Collins revised the order of speakers on Friday.
Millinocket leaders and the Maine Woods Coalition that Conlogue belongs to have both opposed Quimby’s proposal to give about 70,000 acres she owns or will own to the National Park Service for a national park in 2016 and to create another 30,000-acre area for motorized recreational usage.
In his letter, St. Clair said his organization “fully intends to proceed with a new, collaborative approach that embodies the very spirit of northern Mainers. We intend to work closely with local stakeholders such as Matt Polstein.”
“I am excited about the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss ways we can both protect Maine’s outdoor heritage and broaden prosperity for our local communities, now and into the future,” he wrote. “We appreciate your consideration of this request. I extend my sincere gratitude to each of you for your public service and dedication to northern Maine.”
Polstein, a former Millinocket Town Council member who owns a restaurant and a whitewater rafting business just outside of Millinocket, has for several years been building a $65 million ecotourism resort on his property.
Park supporters have said that a study would be the best means of determining the suitability of Quimby’s land for a park. A park could provide a vast new revenue stream for the economically depressed region, they say, and a $40 million endowment Quimby plans to provide, including $20 million she hopes to raise with a national campaign, would cover park maintenance and operation costs.
Opponents challenge the credibility of a national park study and are skeptical of statements by Quimby and federal officials that a park would not grow beyond 70,000 acres. They say federal authority would infringe on local government and threaten the state’s forest products industry.
Among the individuals and entities opposing the park plan and a park study are U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine; U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, D-East Millinocket; Gov. Paul LePage; the Maine Legislature; and the towns of Millinocket and East Millinocket.
More than a dozen community, business and environmental groups ― including several snowmobile clubs, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and Millinocket’s downtown business association ― have publicly supported a feasibility study. The Medway Board of Selectmen remains the only governmental body to do so.
One survey claimed that 60 percent of Mainers support a park feasibility study. Another poll done by a group opposing the park study claimed the opposite.