Newest national monument in Maine readying for first visitors

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PORTLAND, MAINE >> On its 100th anniversary Thursday, the National Parks Service is bigger by at least 87,000 acres of scenic Maine woodlands.

Katahdin Woods and Waters was being readied to welcome its first visitors since President Barack Obama on Wednesday declared it the country's newest national monument.

Donated by Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, the expanse features views of Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, scenery the president called "awe-inspiring" and night skies "glittering with stars and planets."

Visitors are already allowed into the woods, which was open to the public before the designation. There currently is no fee.

Quimby spokesman David Farmer said offices for the park are ready in the towns of Patten and Millinocket. A park superintendent, veteran parks service employee Tim Hudson, is on the ground and will start the process of working with the community to develop a management plan, Farmer said.

The brochures for the monument are printed and signs are going up, and the National Park Passport Stamp beloved by park visitors is now available.

"This is something that is enduring — it will last forever," Farmer said. "It's something that is really unique — a national monument will forever protect hunting and snowmobiling."

The monument management planning process is beginning more or less immediately, Farmer said. That process will be taking place in the wake of months of sometimes rancorous debate among local residents and outside interests about whether the national monument was a good idea at all.

Fans of the national monument have said it is needed to bring jobs to a rural part of the state that has been reeling in the aftermath of paper mill closures that once provided steady employment. But opponents, including Republican Gov. Paul LePage, have challenged the wisdom of turning over so much land to the federal government.

The land is located east of Baxter State Park, the home of Katahdin. Quimby initially sought the designation of the land as a national park.

Some national parks — including Maine's Acadia National Park — began as monuments.


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