The land that Elliotsville Plantation Inc. has proposed to donate for the establishment of a new national park and recreation area east of Baxter State Park, along with a $40 million endowment for park operations, represents a potential recreational, cultural and economic boon for the Katahdin region and all of Maine.

The park would provide opportunities for boating, bicycling, camping, cross-country skiing, fishing, hiking, snowshoeing and swimming; the recreation area would add hunting and snowmobiling.

The park is expected to attract 250,000 to 375,000 visitors annually. Establishment of the park would also create – directly and indirectly – 450 to 1,000 jobs, according to studies reviewed by Maine’s top economists.

An initial step in establishing a national park could be to recognize the property as a national monument.

However, in a letter to the White House, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, along with U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, expressed reservations about this, listing nine conditions they would like met in any executive order to designate a national monument.

Their concerns include potential reduction in timber harvest and restrictions on the use of adjacent land. But Elliotsville Plantation’s land currently is not managed for commercial timber, and if the monument were managed by the National Park Service, this agency would have no authority outside the monument (or ultimately the park).

In addition, the park service would be required by law to give preference to Maine-based companies for concession, outfitter and guide contracts and permits and use local timber for building projects. The agency would develop exhibits to celebrate the logging and paper-making history of the region.

I am disappointed that Sen. King in particular, traditionally independent and insightful, has not publicly supported the proposal to establish a national park or monument, as the majority of Mainers polled to date favor. We need leadership on this issue.

Ron Barry