When Roxanne Quimby started purchasing large sections of the north woods and banning some of our outdoor activities, including hunting and snowmobiling, I helped create and distribute the “Ban Roxanne” bumper sticker.

And when she proposed the creation of a national park on some of her lands, I was a leader in the opposition to that too.

But then she handed the project off to her son Lucas St. Clair, and things began to change. Lucas came to my house with some of his consultants, spread his maps out on my dining room table, and asked me what I wanted. And he did everything I asked, including opening some of the lands to hunting and allowing a snowmobile trail to be built in a critically important area.

Lucas really turned things around by sitting down with anyone who was willing to meet with him and really listening to their concerns. And when the proposal was changed to a national monument, I stepped up to support it. I even testified in support of it at a well-attended public hearing in Orono hosted by Sen. Angus King. Many of my friends spoke against the project.

After that I heard from many people in that area, including people from Patten and Shin Pond, who were hopeful the monument could help them rebuild their struggling economies.

And we are already seeing some evidence that this is happening, although we still have a long way to go.

Most visitors have enjoyed the southern part of the monument, but now park officials are beginning to make improvements in roads and facilities in the northern part of the park, a favorite place of mine.

And here is another interesting aspect of this — Roxanne and I are now friends. A couple years ago, when she had a booth at a fair at the Bangor Civic Center, I sat down with her and visited for half an hour. Yes, even strong opponents can eventually become good friends.

Roxanne actually gave me the key to her camp on the property, and a friend and I drove in and stayed there to enjoy some fishing. The east branch of the Penobscot River is right beside her camp and I caught a whole bunch of brook trout there.

My wife Linda and I, while staying at our camp on the edge of Baxter State Park, took our kayaks over to Roxanne’s camp once and enjoyed a paddle up and down the river. It’s not an easy river to paddle because there are many large rocks sticking up out of the water and there are some rather long portages. But it is a stunningly beautiful river.

If you would like to enjoy the monument, I recommend going to the website of the friends group, www.friendsofkww.org, which can provide you with maps and all kinds of other helpful information. The monument also has its own website with information that is helpful.

I can also recommend staying at a campground or inn and enjoying the restaurants in the Patton, Shin Pond, and Matagamon area. And there are lots of great attractions and places around the monument, including Baxter park and the New England Outdoor Center, where owner Matt Polstein has created some wonderful hiking and biking trails.

Linda and I wrote several travel columns about the New England Outdoor Center, where you have your choice of staying in historic sporting camp cabins or one of Matt’s new buildings. His restaurant is phenomenal. Imagine sitting there and enjoying a wonderful meal and looking out the window across the lake at the stunning beauty of Katahdin.

One of the great things happening at the monument is the Katahdin learning project, a program which gets kids out into the monument, hosted by the friends group.

There are lots of plans for the future including a new campground funded by L.L. Bean, and three new trails that will be finished this year. Elliotsville Plantation, Roxanne and Lucas’s foundation, is very active in monument improvements and they continue to provide funding for many of these. One good project that they’re working on now is interpretive signs.

If you are looking for a nice fall getaway, a trip north to Baxter State Park and the national monument should be at the top of your list.

And when you are enjoying these beautiful places, say thank you to Gov. Percival Baxter, Roxanne Quimby, and Lucas St.Clair.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.


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