In national park debate, where’s the honey?

“I was inspired by the bees, the way they all worked together,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, what good little communists they are. Well, except for that queen in there.’” — Roxanne Quimby

Over the past several days, I’ve been doing research on Quimby’s national park and recreation area proposal. When I got to that quote in a March 2008 article in Yankee Magazine, I laughed. It was too perfect an analogy to ignore.

Somewhere in Quimby’s motivations, was there the idea she would take over the North Woods like a queen bee, and all the folks up there would get in line like “good little communists”? We all know her former neighbors aren’t the “good little communist” type.

Definitely the folks who turned out for the non-binding vote in Medway aren’t feeling it. Opponents of the proposal outnumbered supporters, 252-102.

S.W. Cole map courtesy of Maine Woods Coalition

S.W. Cole map courtesy of Maine Woods Coalition

I’ve only been up there a few times, and I could have predicted Quimby’s takeover wouldn’t go well. I have a friend who lives up there, and he’s dead set against it. The folks up there seem proud and honorable, with a profound appreciation for their remote corner of the world and its traditions. It’s sad to read about the rift the national park proposal has torn between so many.

Quimby says she cares about the land, but the people living there, upholding its longstanding professional and recreational traditions, are part of that land.

Because our neighbors to the north are the past and present of the land, it seems logical that they, not primarily one individual, should shape its future. And because the logging and paper industries have long contributed to the Maine economy, Maine should return the favor by providing the resources necessary for North Woods residents to develop their own strategic plan for economic development.

Most of America struggles with its love affair with extreme wealth. We tend to award the extremely wealthy with authority beyond the scope of their wealth. Oprah gets say in what is and isn’t good literature to the dismay of the many critics that pop up when you Google, “Oprah Winfrey bad for literature.”

And the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has increasing control of the health priorities in developing nations. Some researchers have questioned the transparency and efficacy of the foundation’s programs and suggest priorities may not align with the most pressing health needs in communities.

Mainers, especially northern Mainers, don’t share our fellow Americans’ lovesickness with extreme wealth and don’t take kindly to being told what to do. They prefer Stephen and Tabitha King’s philanthropic style to that of Roxanne Quimby and her son.

The King Foundation gives money to communities and agencies to fill needs as leaders in communities best see fit. Their radio station provides the kind of jobs and community service that Mainers want. The Kings foster communities rather than rendering them apart.

Roxanne Quimby and her son Lucas St. Clair could learn from the way the Kings like to build a hive — and how happy all the bees involved seem to be.

The North Woods and the folks up there could use a little of that kind of honey.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.