PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A pair of studies commissioned by a foundation that wants to create a national park in northern Maine suggest that communities near federal parks have better economic performance than other rural communities and that creation of a second national park in Maine could create 450 to 1,000 jobs.
Elliotsville Plantation Inc., which was created by Burt's Bees founder Roxanne Quimby, commissioned the studies to explore the potential economic impact in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, and to look at the impact on communities with existing parks and recreation areas.
Montana-based Headwaters Economics, which has done work for the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, said a national park can provide a big economic boost.
"Northern Maine clearly needs a new economic idea," Ben Alexander, associate director of Headwaters Economics, said Thursday. "Are people ready to try something else? That's not for me to say. But if you look at other places with (national parks), it clearly indicates there's an opportunity here."
Quimby's proposal for a northern Maine park in 2001 drew fierce opposition, as well as support. The National Park Service remains enthusiastic but has taken no formal stance.
Because of the opposition, Elliotsville Plantation has performed a reset of sorts, taking a step back, reopening a dialogue with Katahdin region residents, reviewing its options and commissioning the studies by Headwaters Economics, a consulting firm that focuses on community development and rural land management.
But Bob Meyers from the Maine Snowmobile Association, a critic of the national park proposal, said Thursday he's skeptical of the research and the motives of Elliotsville Plantation, a private operating foundation set up to manage tens of thousands of acres bought by Quimby.
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