AUGUSTA (AP) – Gov. John Baldacci on Thursday formally accepted a $2.7 million gift from a longtime supporter of Baxter State Park to help with operations and maintenance of the preserve, which covers more than 209,000 acres of northern Maine wilderness.

The money donated by Frank Trautmann will go into a new trust that’s expected to grow to $10 million. The money comes with no strings attached, and the three-member Baxter State Park Authority will decide how it’s allocated.

But Baldacci and others said the money is expected to help defray the costs of running the park, to keep users’ fees reasonable and to ensure access for all of the public.

The donation is “another important milestone in our journey to keep the park among our most treasured assets,” said Baldacci, who gained a new appreciation for the park when he and his son climbed Mount Katahdin earlier this summer.

The 86-year-old Trautmann became a park volunteer two decades ago, helping with tasks that included building and maintaining trails.

“When the park needed some new lean-tos, with no money to fund the project, Frank went home to Islesboro, cut and milled trees from his property, prefabbed the lean-tos and took them to the park,” Baldacci said. “He then camped at the sites until the lean-tos were assembled.”

Trautmann had often discussed with Buzz Caverly, the former park superintendent, his desire to establish a trust for the park. That opportunity came during an effort to raise $14 million in private funds to purchase an adjoining 4,000-acre parcel that includes the picturesque Katahdin Lake for the park.

The transfer was completed last December.

Trautmann, who now lives in Rockport, had agreed to donate proceeds from the sale of his home in Islesboro for the Katahdin Lake purchase. When it turned out that there was $2.7 million more than was needed to complete the purchase, Trautmann moved ahead with the new trust, which is known as the Baxter Park Wilderness Fund, Caverly said.

The fund will be managed by a newly created, three-member board that includes Caverly.

“This is a historic day for Baxter State Park,” Caverly told a State House news conference as Trautmann’s gift was announced. Trautmann didn’t attend the event.

Lands comprising Baxter State Park were donated in several increments between 1931 and 1962 by former Gov. Percival Baxter, who wanted the area to remain “forever wild.”

Lands at the south of the park and the Katahdin Lake area have since been added. The Trautmann gift is not expected to be used for land purchases, officials said.

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Baxter State Park Authority:

AP-ES-08-23-07 1824EDT

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