T3 R7, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — As the National Park Service continues its work on the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, it's drawing fire from one of its neighboring landowners.
It has to do with a bridge that spans the East Branch of the Penobscot River, just outside the boundary of what is now federal land. It's a bridge that people will have to cross to get in and out of the monument from its southern entrance.
Recently, the National Park Service hired crews to repair the bridge decking against the wishes of the owner of that bridge, who opposes the national monument and never wanted the work done in the first place.
The East Branch Land Company posted a sign at the bridge, saying, "This land owner says national monument NO." Co-owner Anne Mitchell, who also serves as president of the Maine Woods Coalition — which opposes the national monument — released a statement, saying:
"For the NPS to not communicate in any way with the private landowners in the area, i.e. the monument in-holders, as they invite the public to travel over private roads, raises concern. It's a surprising display of disrespectful and unprofessional behavior. We hope it's not a sign of the kind of treatment Maine people can expect to receive from this federal agency now that they are established in northern Maine.
"Our $8 billion forest industry is still a major part of the rural economy in Maine. Our state would be in dire straits if this natural resource industry were to be negatively impacted by the National Park Service."
NPS officials said Mitchell's land management company, Prentiss and Carlisle, was notified by the previous owners, Elliotsville Plantation. Katahdin Woods and Waters Director Tim Hudson said he met with officials from Prentiss and Carlisle last week to notify them they were doing the work.
"They knew we had every ability and basically the legal right to do it," Hudson said, pointing to the fact that the NPS has a deeded right of way to cross the bridge to get into the national monument land. For his part, Hudson said he hopes they can improve relationships with landowners but said the priority was ensuring people have safe access into the national monument.
The National Park Service is hosting listening sessions over the coming weeks for people to provide input into the development. It just released the list Tuesday.
- Sept. 15 at the Patten Recreation Center in Patten.
- Sept. 20 at Medway Middle School in Medway.
- Sept. 22 at Stearns High School in Millinocket on Sept. 22.
- Sept. 29 in the Bangor/Orono area; location to be determined.
Those sessions will all take place between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.