Lucas St. Clair
eyes a North Woods national park
PHOTo / Courtesy Elliotsville Plantation Inc.
PHOTO / COURTESY ELLIOTSVILLE PLANTATION INC.
Lucas St. Clair
, son of entrepreneur Roxanne Quimby, flyfishes on his land in northern Maine.
, a Dover-Foxcroft native, is using home-grown values to land support for a new version of a national park in Maine.
Bob Myers remembers an exhilarating snowmobile ride last winter with Lucas St. Clair
through a tract of land in northern Maine east of a proposed national park near the east branch of the Penobscot River.
It was a terrific year for snowmobiling, with a long season and lots of snow, and the two men had a good time traversing the land, which is owned by St. Clair, recalls Myers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association in Augusta.
But when talk turns to a northern national park, his
and St. Clair's paths diverge.
"I just don't buy it," explains Myers, who says he's
had many conversations about finding middle ground on the project with both St. Clair and his
mother, Burt's Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby, who initially proposed the national park.
"I don't see how adding the federal brand [of a national park] will improve things up there.
It's a great place to fish and hunt, but there's nothing special up there.
It's nothing like going to the top of Cadillac Mountain [in Acadia National Park] and having jaw-dropping views.
It doesn't lend itself to a national park."
But St. Clair, who is president of the board of directors of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the foundation that owns the land near Baxter State Park, is once again trying to earn support for the controversial park.
It could be as large as 75,000 acres of national park and an equal amount for a related recreation area.
Since Elliotsville Plantation
is a little less than 130,000 acres, the foundation will continue to buy land, St. Clair
There are no specifics on the exact size nor the boundaries as of yet, he
says, as a firm plan still is not in place.
There's also no timing on moving ahead with the park.
But St. Clair
is clearly in motion.
Coffee klatch campaigning
may only be in his
mid-30s, but he's
using old-style campaigning to earn the trust and support of local constituents for the park.
Sleeping in a van, knocking on doors and stopping fishermen and hikers in the forest, he's
gone back to basics for the past year-and-a half to establish common ground with people in the Mt. Katahdin and Baxter State Park area.
For St. Clair
, establishing the national park is a mission to save the region's natural resources and expand economic growth.
thought about a state park, but Baxter State Park already is there, and he
wants the "gold standard" brand of a national park that can bring in people from all over the world.
"I grew up in rural Piscataquis County, where I fished for trout and hunted birds," says St. Clair, who was born in Dover-Foxcroft and grew up in Guilford.
"So I am trying to build a relationship with a connection over shared values, and then talk.
There's a trust-building that has to occur.
takes every meeting he
can get, especially with the most extreme opposition.
consensus-building approach stands in stark contrast to the confrontational exchanges his
mother had with opponents to her
earlier proposal for a 70,000-acre park.
It was taken off the table by St. Clair
last fall after it ran into opposition from Maine's two U.S.
Paul LePage, and U.S. Rep.
Mike Michaud, as well as various forest products and recreational groups.
Opposition revolved around giving the federal government power in the area, harming local manufacturers and preventing sports enthusiasts from accessing long-used areas.
Naysayer Myers describes St. Clair
as a good guy who is very sincere.
trying to reach out to people and make this palatable," he
But so far, St. Clair
has not changed the mind of Myers, who worries about losing access to the land, which he
says could happen if the federal government imposes its regulations for the parks and emissions for nearby businesses.
adds that when the federal government is involved in a project, it tends to get larger than originally planned, and environmental groups will step in to limit public access.
"Look to what happened at Yellowstone," he
But St. Clair
has managed to change some minds.
has had a very positive impact.
I think it's a much more collaborative approach.
If it had started out in this direction, it probably would have been done by now," says Smith, who acknowledges St. Clair
still faces two big hurdles.
But St. Clair
has people thinking about the national park in greater numbers, he
says, which is a start.
"I relate to the land and the region in a different way than my mom," says St. Clair
, who adds that his
mother has stepped away from day-to-day operations of Elliotsville Plantation
"I don't think she
would have driven from town-to-town and sat in as many living rooms."
mother was perceived as a woman from "away" who had the resources to buy the land and then tried to tell the townspeople what to do.
What also figured in, he
says, were the then-recent memories of the 3.2 million-acre park proposal by the group Restore, which he
But for St. Clair
, the issue is more about changing a mindset in a region that has experienced only negative results from change.
"In the last 40 years in the Katahdin
region, every bit of change has represented something negative, mills downsized, layoffs, benefits taken away, schools closed, children moving away," he
"What we're proposing is another change of the use of the landscape, and people who lived through [those other changes] don't want to change."
says that because he
grew up in the area, he
understands the issues, citing a recent afternoon he
spent with former classmates.
"Everyone we went to school with has moved away," he
says adding the current resistance is a fear of the unknown in addition to a fear of change.
explaining to stakeholders that the park could bring new jobs in the tourism industry, and the recreational area would be open to fishing and hunting as well as provide permanent snowmobile paths.
"I care deeply about Maine and its natural resources," he
"I've gone back to streams I fished and seen development and areas where access is denied."
says the landscape for the park is the most impressive, intact forest on the East Coast.
"It's a sea of trees with rolling hills, an unbelievable watershed, crystal clear streams, ponds and rivers filled with wild brook trout and salmon," he
says.?He envisions the park as offering special landscapes like the Grand Canyon, Everglades or the Great Sand Dunes.
The Elliotsville Plantation
has three water flows, the Wassataquiok Stream, the east branch of the Penobscot and the Seboeis River.
current efforts to get local municipalities to recognize the benefits of tourism, "a lot of heavy lifting now.
It's a viable industry, as viable as health care or forest products manufacturing."
adds that the Bangor area, which is only 65 miles away, has a lot to gain from a new national park, and can "multiply the park experience in Acadia and the north woods.
intends to keep pressing on.