What if Quimby and St. Clair worked with locals on a comprehensive economic plan for the Millinocket region?

Boy, Roxanne Quimby and Lucas St. Clair are missing out.

Since writing a post about the national park debate in northern Maine, I have received so many thoughtful responses. The people I’ve been in contact with are good, intelligent people — the kind of people who could have worked with Quimby and St. Clair to develop a comprehensive economic strategic plan for the region. And who knows? Some sort of park with Quimby’s name on it might have naturally evolved as a piece of a larger, more effective plan.

Quimby, St. Clair, and their considerable resources combined with northern Mainers and their considerable knowledge would have made an economic revitalization dream team.

Getting to know our fine neighbors in northern Maine, rather than alienating them would have been a good start. Conserving the region should begin by conserving the goodwill and expertise of the talented and passionate people who live up there. Conserving the region should have started with conversations rather than closing access and condescending comments.

Voters cast their vote on the nonbinding referendum on a proposed north woods national park at the Town of Medway Fire Department/ Public Works building June 23 in Medway. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Voters cast their vote on the nonbinding referendum on a proposed north woods national park at the Town of Medway Fire Department/ Public Works building June 23 in Medway. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

In 2011, Quimby told a national audience that Maine was a “welfare state,” and northern Mainers “still have not accepted that the old paradigm isn’t working. They’re in complete denial.” She later apologized to the Bangor Daily News audience but still refuses to listen to folks up there. They have numerous reasons to believe her new paradigm won’t work either and think she’s the one in denial.

The reasons include lack of infrastructure, limited supporting surrounding economies, numerous hurdles involving further land acquisition and current funding problems at the National Park Service, questions concerning estimated job creation and visitor draw numbers, and concerns regarding relinquishing control of land that will be needed as part of a larger strategic economic plan whether there’s a national park or not.

I could do several posts on the substantive, amazing email and phone conversations I’ve had in the last few days. I’ve heard from people in forestry, landowners, leaseholders, business people and others. Every single interaction left me wondering: Who wouldn’t want to work collaboratively with these gracious, informed people?

Who wouldn’t want the legacy of helping these people succeed economically while preserving their longstanding traditions?

Quimby and St. Clair have missed the opportunity to work alongside the likes of former state senator David Trahan, now director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. He wishes Quimby and St. Clair would help him refocus the leadership in Augusta on the pressing needs of rural Mainers. Trahan’s list of what he thinks a little clout could get done politically is expansive and diverse.

He talked about niche manufacturing markets that allow for sustainable, environmentally responsible forestry and the need for legislators to support aggressive marketing of Maine in these markets. He said the bulk of state spending promoting Maine is in tourism-, seafood- and agriculture-related markets to the detriment of other inland and rural industries.

Trahan said the presence of a national park, and federal control of local land, will make northern Maine less attractive to manufacturing investors.

Trahan recalled his days as a senator when there was a push to invest in research and development at the University of Maine that focused on responsibly capitalizing on Maine’s abundant natural resources. He lamented the lack of focus on such endeavors in our current political climate, attributing the demise to the climate and to the consequences of term limits.

We digressed for a moment and commiserated over the need to get politicians to focus on the day-to-day needs of Mainers, rather than national party platforms and personality power plays. We talked about energy and tax policy, other areas in which Trahan says rural and northern Mainers need legislative advocacy.

Trahan has a profound understanding of both the forest and the trees — literally and figuratively — and would make a great member of a revitalization dream team. As would Andrew Young of Preserve Maine Traditions who comes across as high energy and knowledgeable. Young recently wrote an opinion piece for the Bangor Daily News and contacted me to offer tons of information on both sides of the debate.

In his opinion piece, Young contests the recent findings of a consulting firm hired by Quimby and Lucas to report on “the economic performance of similar parks around the country.” Young goes on to contest the findings, point by point, establishing that none of the six chosen comparison parks resembled the proposed national park here at all.

A more expanded version of this information can be found on a powerpoint prepared by his organization, though Young apologizes for its lack of polish. He also provided a 57 point summary of the debate since its inception as a much larger proposal under the auspices of Quimby and RESTORE.

Both Young and Trahan spoke dishearteningly about the role of money — yet another potential separate post in need of further research — and how discouraging it is to oppose an idea proposed by people who can afford to make donations and hire consultants and spokespeople. Only recently has the opposition been able to find funding to bring on spokesperson Ted O’Meara, previously relying mostly on volunteers, like Young.

Besides Young and Trahan, the list of other potential revitalization dream team members is too long to include. The area abounds with intelligent people ready to revitalize their region and supporting them in doing would be quite a legacy in and of itself.

Like I said, Roxanne Quimby and Lucas St. Clair are missing out.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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