I’ve lived in Millinocket for over 40 years. The region has been in decline for more than half of them.

Great Northern Paper told workers back in 1986 that the mills would decline. Many of us have worked to diversify our economy, despite a lack of vision on the part of our elected officials, who’ve clung desperately to the past.

I opened the Bicycle Inn, hoping our shrinking economy could benefit from a greater mix of sports on the surrounding land, then still controlled by a devastated Great Northern.

But the paper company continued a ban on bicycle access, a ban that continues to this day. The land controlled by Katahdin Forest Management, plus the land behind the North Woods gate system, is closed to bicycles, thereby shutting a recreational dollars spigot and keeping tourists off thousands of miles of land and roads built with tax subsidies provided by Maine people.

The day I met Roxanne Quimby, I told her that much of the publicly accessible private land in Maine did not allow bicycles. Within days, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc. (the nonprofit foundation that Quimby started to manage her land in northern Maine) opened its 87,500 acres to bicycles.

We must let go of the past and join the rest of the world. Bicycles are just one way that thousands of people would be able to enjoy the wild, open spaces in a Maine Woods National Monument, bringing new dollars, jobs and people to our area.

U.S. Sen. Angus King and his colleagues have heard overwhelming support from people in the Katahdin region and throughout Maine. We need them to listen, and lead.

Charlie Cirame