BY DEIRDRE FLEMING

The Portland Press Herald

A unique 143-acre parcel with stunning views of Mount Katahdin and a rich history is being given to Baxter State Park today by Huber Resources Corp., a timber management company based in Old Town.

The Katahdin Lake parcel includes 4,000 feet of lake frontage and is remarkable enough to have drawn American landscape painter Frederic Church in the 1850s, and scores of artists after him.

The parcel, small but significant in its history and aesthetic value, has been in the Huber family since the early 1940s, but they recently decided it should be enjoyed by all the people of Maine, said Bob Currie, vice president and chief communications officer for Huber Corp.

Huber Resources has a history of donating land for conservation. In 1976 the Hubers gave a 4,100-acre peat bog in Crystal and Sherman as well as 600 acres along the Seboeis River to The Nature Conservancy. They also donated 36,000 acres of a conservation easement in the St. John Watershed to the conservancy in 2000.

“It was very obvious to us the right thing to do with this property was to have it incorporated into Baxter State Park and have it for all the people of Maine, and for their great, great-grandchildren be able to enjoy,” Currie said. “This gift was a gift from the heart, it was bigger than whatever the property would be appraised at.”

Baxter State Park Director Jensen Bissell said the donation was a unique gift in the long history of the park that was cobbled together by multiple land purchases made by Gov. Percival Baxter and given to the people of Maine in 1931.

“It really fits within the context of the park as we know it. I think it’s a remarkable gesture on the part of a corporation and the family. It renews my faith in how Maine corporations think about the state and how they manage land,” Bissell said.

The 143-acre parcel completes the 4,000-acre block of land around Katahdin Lake that was acquired and given to the park in 2006 by the state in a land deal lead by the Trust for Public Land.

The panoramic view of Mount Katahdin seen from Church’s Beach and the history there had sentimental value for the Huber family, who for generations allowed access to hikers, painters and photographers.

“When the Huber family first started coming to Maine in the early 1940s, it was one of the first pieces of land that one of the Hubers purchased in Maine,” Currie said of the family, who own a half million acres in Maine.

But to fans of Baxter State Park, the history and natural beauty will mean just as much.

In the 1860s the Legislature gave 175 acres around Church’s Beach to the Rev. Marcus Keep to thank him for cutting trails around Mount Katahdin, providing access to Maine’s tallest mountain.

Today a ridge on the mountain is named for the early guide.

“Marcus Keep built a cabin there. It’s just a very nice piece of land. The pocket beaches have views to the Great Basin,” Bissell said. “The land didn’t change hands many times since then. The Huber family still referred to it as the Keep lot.”

And there is speculation by many that the entire area around Katahdin Lake, including Church’s Beach, was in Baxter’s original vision for what his park should be, making the Hubers’ gift perhaps the final piece in Baxter’s dream.

“There is an indication that early on (Baxter) saw Katahdin Lake as part of the park and then later on it wasn’t. I think in his original vision, yes it was a block of land that would be similar to what the park is now, but (the negotiations) didn’t work and we don’t know why,” Bissell said.