June 18, 2019

Will Quimby’s New Obama Playground Destroy Baxter State Park?

Oh, the cries to protect wilderness! Many cried to protect the beauty and the “wilderness” of the Yellowstone National Park. And did they? I suppose it depends on your political perspective definition of what “wilderness” is…right Slick Willie?

Yellowstone, often described as the model of how all lands should be “protected” has limited access but fits boldly into the model of an urban, sterile society, too damned lazy to get out of their plush, climate controlled automobiles to enjoy the actual wilderness. Wilderness seems to have morphed into a drive through municipal zoo. But don’t tell anyone.

So Roxanne Quimby, insisting on protecting Maine’s forests and wilderness, cried in the urban jungle to the corrupt politicians for a national park on her land. Not getting her way, yet, she had to settle for the work of cronyism from President Obama – some sort of reciprocating nonsense due to him appointing her to the board of the National Parks – and a national monument designation.

The question I have always had, and one that I read just this morning that someone else had expressed, is how do you protect “wilderness” by building and paving roads, erecting buildings, running infrastructure, such as water, sewer and electricity. Makes little sense.

Baxter State Park has a long common boundary with the new ObamaQuimby playground. The parks director is legitimately concerned about what effect visitors to the Katahdin Woods and Waters (KW&W) will have on Baxter. The director says that, “In order to preserve its wilderness as much as possible, Baxter strives to limit access to about 75,000 visitors annually.”

The director also shares the existing troubles of managing the park because Mt. Katahdin in the terminus of the Appalachian Trail. “Trail officials have been working with Baxter leaders for more than two years to alleviate chronic friction points, such as litter, alcohol and drug use on the trail, as well as large groups ascending Baxter Peak to party in celebration of a hiker’s completion of the mammoth journey. Too many thru-hikers were inviting large parties into campgrounds set aside for trail hikers, and bringing dogs falsely marked as service animals, Bissell has said.” Yes, Americans are so conscientious about protecting “wilderness.”

It’s difficult to get any sense of how concerned the Baxter director should be. While the same Bangor Daily News article states that there has already been some visitors to the Katahdin Woods and Waters, it would be my guess that curiosity is the motivating factor. Once they see that there is nothing to see, word will spread and visitors will be limited…that is until such time as they pave roads, build lodging, put in restaurants, snack bars and souvenir stands. Don’t forget the street lights and lighted parking lots. Remember, all in the name of protecting the wilderness, Mainers were sold the story that a national monument/park would boost the local economy. That’s what protecting wilderness is about. Doublespeak is what all that was and is.

Are there restrictions on what can and can’t be built on National Monument land? Yes, but that is left up to political perspective. Roads and buildings can be erected so long as they fulfill the directives and the purposes of the national monument. But isn’t the ultimate goal here a national park, where they can do anything they want, including the banning of hunting, trapping, fishing, use of ATVs and snowmobiles, etc.? It’s easy to lie and tell the people they will be able to carry on with some of the usual recreation activities on restricted portions of the land, while it’s a national monument. What about after it becomes a park?

The concern by the director of Baxter State Park, is that visitors to the KW&W will cross over the boundary on Baxter’s eastern boundary, which is managed as pretty much actual wilderness, and destroy it with their filth and decadence. It will happen, sooner or later.

Will the “wilderness” of KW&W end up like all the others – paved roads, buildings and retail shops – where lazy visitors can cruise around the paved roads, smogging up the landscape, discarding their trash, defecating beside the road and at pullout sites? Will it expand and destroy Baxter State Park? Will Baxter Park get swallowed up by KW&W like Roxanne Quimby first envisioned?

Time will tell.

And just as a reminder,

DON’T GO LOOK!

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