2nd NPS ‘listening session' centers on future, economy

National monument listening session in Medway

MEDWAY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — People in the town of Medway attended the second in a series of listening sessions put on by the National Park Service Tuesday night.

The gatherings are part of a campaign to develop a management plan for the future of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. The meeting for residents of Medway and East Millinocket comes now just four weeks after the monument's official designation.

Still, there are concerns in the towns, especially in regards to the economy following the severe blow that resulted from the mill closure in East Millinocket back in 2013.

“I’m still grieving from all this,” said Medway resident Sandy Deschaine. "I'm concerned about the title and the name Katahdin Woods and Water because it's creating an assumption that the national monument is also part of the river ways."

Beyond the noise and deeply-entrenched emotion, many people are putting their bitterness towards Roxanne Quimby aside and looking at the next steps.

"On one hand there's that dialogue where the press is reporting, ‘You know people are really divided,' and it's true," said John Hafford. "People are divided over this, but as this monument has been designated. A lot of people have come forward and said let's just move on."

More people are now looking at how the towns might benefit.

"Tourism the way I see it is it's a bunch of low hanging fruit that's something we can do now,” Hafford said.

Hafford, a resident of Medway, owns a business in Millinocket and said he is part of a number of small groups forming to support the local economy around the monument. Still, there are concerns about what the future will look like. Some said they fear it would restrict the ability for paper product industry companies to ever operate again in the area.

"I feel it's going to change our values and our culture in the area,” Deschaine said.

Those concerns centered on access to the river, the longevity of a prominent snowmobile corridor and how feared future property changes might impact landowners. But one thing that seemed to be a common thread: how it all fits into creating jobs for future generations.

"A lot of that depends upon the town so when people come hopefully that's when the entrepreneurial spirit will get in and find the niche and make it work,” said Tim Hudson, the NPS' project lead at KWW.

As for the previous concerns surrounding the ATV access issue, Hudson said it all relates to private roads surrounding that particular section of the monument. So while the park service allows it, it is getting there that’s a problem.

The park service stayed on script Tuesday night, vowing to keep the dialogue open to get people working together as they go ahead with their plans. The information gathered, along with more from the other sessions, will be compiled into an official report to formulate the management plan.

"A lot of people are working on this and working together in big groups where people don't agree with one another, everyone's sitting down at the table and saying okay let's figure this out," Hafford said.

There are two listening sessions left.

The next one will be Thursday in Millinocket, followed by another next week in the Bangor area.

Copyright 2016 WLBZ


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