Now is the time to support both our tourism industry and economically hard-hit rural communities in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties by establishing a national monument as a first step toward a national park and national recreation area near Katahdin. This project has been carefully developed with local input from people who understand that a park will bring visitors to Maine’s inland forests, rivers and mountains, and thus to the nearby communities and businesses.

The Elliotsville Plantation Inc.’s proposal, including a first-of-its-kind endowment for park operations, will create economic benefits throughout Maine. Visitors will buy gas, lodging and meals on their way to and from the park. They will rent bikes and kayaks and hire guides. Along the way visitors may discover other interesting destinations that rural, inland Maine has in abundance. This may bring them back to Maine, perhaps to settle here, start new businesses and raise families.

Economic studies show that a national park and national recreation area could provide more than 450 direct and indirect jobs, which would directly benefit the park’s gateway communities. Numerous studies show that rural locations across the U.S. that have a national park and national recreation area have experienced stronger economic growth than those without. This would certainly be the case in the Katahdin region, suffering the consequences of a dissolving paper industry.

Maine has a lot to offer. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and the other members of our delegation need to recognize that this proposal will help strengthen Maine.

Patricia Horine