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Medway Residents Say 'No' to Proposed National Park

MEDWAY, Maine -  Supporters of a national park in northern Maine have a lot more work to do to convince residents in one area town to support the proposal.

In a non-binding straw vote Tuesday, 252 Medway residents opposed the park, while 102 voters supported it.

Park opponents say the vote is proof that an expensive campaign to convince area residents to support the proposal isn't working.  That campaign is being waged by Roxanne Quimby's son, Lucas St. Clair, and Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., the non-profit that manages Quimby's vast land holdings in the North Woods.

Under the proposal, Elliotsville would donate 100,000 acres of land toward the creation of a 75,000 acre national park between Baxter State Park and the East Branch of the Penobscot River, and a national recreation area of the same size. The remaining 50,000 acres would be purchased as the project moves forward and other land owners become willing to sell.

In recent months, Elliotsville has spent extensive time and money in an effort to sell the idea to skeptical residents in the Katahdin Region.

"We still have work to do in Medway," says David Farmer. Farmer is a spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation and Lucas St. Clair, who argues that a national park would create between 450 and 1,000 jobs and jump-start an economic revival in a region devastated by mill closures and the collapse of papermaking.

"Big ideas take time," Farmer says. "And we're going to continue to work in Medway and East Millinocket, which has an election coming up on Monday, to change hearts and minds and to tell the story, the opportunity that a park and recreation area could create."

The Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Medway Board of Selectmen are backing the proposal. But those endorsements did little to win over park opponents in Medway. Ted O'Meara is with the Maine Woods Coalition, a collection of Katahdin area groups fighting a proposed park and recreation area.

"It was pretty convincing," O'Meara says. "People in Medway, one of the towns that will be closest to the proposed park - that will be most impacted by it - resoundingly said no to the idea."

But O'Meara says that doesn't mean that a no vote was easy for some residents.

"We all know that area has really been rocked by the closure of the mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket. But I think it says the people in that area, they recognize they have vast forest resources, that they have hydropower, they have rail and a network of private roads. And the best use of them is not to wall it off and create a National Park."

East Millinocket residents will have their say on a proposed national park and recreation area on Monday.