Last week, after President Donald Trump asked for a review of some national monuments that have been designated over the past two decades, I asked BDN readers what they thought about our own Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was officially formed last year.
As expected, you were eager to share your thoughts. Of those respondents, 87 percent shared a variation of the same response: Leave the monument alone. To be clear, that percentage doesn’t represent a scientific poll of any sort.
It does, I’ll assert, offer further proof of how far the pendulum has swung in favor of the monument over just a few years. And in what might come as a surprise to Gov. Paul LePage and steadfast critics of the monument, most of these responses did not come from “the other Maine,” hundreds of miles away from Katahdin Woods and Waters.
Here’s a bit of what readers had to say, edited for space and clarity.
From Cecelia Harmon, Milo: “My personal opinion is that President Trump should leave [the monument] alone and deal with more important matters, and Gov. LePage should just go away. (Sorry. Had to say it.) The land was privately owned, and then given to the park service. Had it not been turned over to the park service, along with an endowment to fund the upkeep, it’s not like [Roxanne Quimby] was going to give it away to individuals in the state. It was her land that she bought and paid for, and she did what she wanted with it. She could have paved it and put up a parking lot, or built a golf course. I live about 40 miles south of Millinocket, so I think it’s a wonderful addition to our ‘back yard.’”
From Hope MacDonald, Millinocket: I am a huge fan of the new monument and so unhappy with LePage and Trump … I think most people up here your attitude, ‘It’s here, let’s live with it,’ but a lot love it! I do, for one. I am hoping it will not only raise my property values but revive the town a little bit. I can attest that it is a beautiful place, and if you’ve spent any time in Massachusetts or farther south, you would know why it will be popular: [It is] remote, serene, quiet [and has] incredible natural beauty. What’s not to love?”
From Christina Shipps, Patten: “Controversy over this monument/park was the most divisive topic I have witnessed in my 19 years of owning a home and a business in this area. But once monument status was announced last year, just about everyone I know began to look forward to the future, putting the acrimony behind us. I am about to open a new farm-to-table cafe, WiFi espresso bar, homemade ice cream, local art business in an 1870 farmhouse in Patten on Route 11, spurred on by the new monument.”
From Rev. Leslie Nesin, Howland: “I absolutely support the monument. I live in Howland and have enjoyed the Great North Woods. I’m very familiar with Millinocket and Patten and the whole area and it’s been sad to watch the area’s economy decline; with the advent of the monument, things have definitely picked up! There is measurable, provable and sizeable growth in the local business scene … I believe that every time we conserve a substantial piece of pristine wilderness we’re serving everyone, now and in the future.”
From Howard P. Segal, Orono: “In my view, the fundamental issue is not the potential value to Mainers and others of the national monument — which few sensible people would deny — but determining which political and economic interests and corporate executives have determined Gov. LePage’s relentless hostility and baseless arguments. His positions on almost every issue hurt all but a small number of wealthy Mainers and others from away. The national monument is no exception.”
From John and Carol Gregory, Old Town: “[The national monument] is here to stay, and as you said, it’s here for ALL to enjoy. Shame on our governor for making ‘his’ voice known in D.C. against it when it is supported more than ever by the Mainers who he supposedly represents … Trump should not be wasting time and energy undermining the previous president’s work by putting our monument under review. This monument (hopefully it will be a national park soon) will help our state as it becomes a worldwide destination for visitors. It must be preserved.”
And on the other side of the philosophical coin:
From Roland Worcester of Lincoln: “The gift of [the monument land’s] beauty was there for years before [Roxanne Quimby] bought it, blocked it off and ran people off the land that had been there for generations. Sad to see the [federal] government take over. They can’t manage what they have without busting a budget.”
From Glen Stewart of Millinocket: “I have lived in Millinocket all my life, the woods are why I stay here. I have gone into those woods where that new monument is for many years. It used to be a nice place. Now when I go there all I see is signs, gates and man-made structures. That should have been the name of the place: Signs and Gates National Monument.”
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: firstname.lastname@example.org