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Thread: National Park Proposal East of Baxter Heating up

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    National Park Proposal East of Baxter Heating up

    Elliotsville Plantation, the entity funded by Roxanne Quimby shifted gears a few years ago and brought in new spokesman, her son Lucas St Clair to be the face of the project. Roxanne managed to make some significant missteps early on in her campaign by blocking access to land traditionally open to the public so its taken her son several years to undo those missteps. I expect a PR firm was also brought in as there have been multiple approaches to developing local support and unlike opponents, Elliotsville Plantation is well funded and is willing and able to provide resources to supporters. The project also has benefitted by the collapse of the mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket. There have been several attempts at local referendums, and as the local economy gets more and more depressed, the project has gained supporters to the point where East Millinocket is going to have a referendum on supporting the park. The town of Medway (at the I95 exit to the region) has already voted to support while Millinocket's town council recently voted not to have a vote. The states congressional delegation will not support the park proposal unless it is supported locally.

    One recent point by the opponents is that a portion of the proposed parks declaration boundaries which enclose 150,000 acres is owned by other private entities, this is typical of a NPS, NRA of NF designation and there are numerous cases of inholdings in the WMNF. The major difference is the NPS designation substantially reduces the potential for any development on those inholdings, thus over the long term the private landholders effectively are encouraged to sell to the only willing buyer, the NPS. I do find the reference to the owner of Saddleback being hounded by the NPS to sell out a bit curious as the Saddleback deal was universally regarded a significant bail out to a wealthy out of state landowner who had a failing ski resort. Designation of NPS lands(or other federally designated locations) doesn't just impact the land in the park, there are special regulations that kick in even in the vicinity of the park for quite a distance.

    Elliotsville has already opened the area to public use making access improvements and installing signage similar to NPS signage. Unfortunately despite their best efforts, the centerpiece of the park is actually not in the proposed park but is to the west in Baxter State Park which most likely will never be included in the proposed park due to significant restrictions in the Deeds of Trust that govern BSP. Percival Baxter was opposed to a NPS park proposal in the past and his documented intent is still used to manage the park. Most folk who have been to BSP have gone past the Medway exit and thus they unfortunately haven't even been near the proposed park.

    Here are a few links

    http://bangordailynews.com/2015/03/2...national-park/

    http://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/1...oreInpenobscot

    http://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/1...oreInpenobscot
    Last edited by peakbagger; 06-19-2015 at 05:53 AM.

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    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    Maine has a fairly unique but highly effective model of land ownership and use that, at least in Maine, would seem highly preferable than a national park in providing a self supporting and sustaining resource that provides reasonable access to the public and sound conservation measures at comparatively negligible cost to taxpayers at any level. Maine's model incorporates a
    quiltwork of private ownership, state lands and conservation easements.

    National parks have been a focal point of our travels across North America but so have state parks and other outdoor recreation resources. Maine's aggressive tourism promotion in recent years obviates the need for a national park to stimulate visitor interest. A look at the Thoreau Falls Bridge controversy on another thread, observation of the many areas closed to the public and the bureaucratic and remote unresponsivenss of highly centralized control punctuates the downside of federalization of these lands.

    I hope the local voters will not be lured into the siren calls of those who want to focus all control in a distant bureacracy that asserts to know what's best for us all.

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    Mainers - keep federal government cancer out of your state for as long as you can...

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    Thunderbear's analysis is worth reading (second article this issue.) I do think it needs to be recognized that the current/recent-past model of Maine backcountry management is predicated on a pretty grand scale of marketable forestry products, something that has slipped away and is unlikely to come back in the same form and to the same degree. A different approach needs to be hammered out and I don't envy folks the difficult task.

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    Senior Member Guthook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jniehof View Post
    Thunderbear's analysis is worth reading (second article this issue.) I do think it needs to be recognized that the current/recent-past model of Maine backcountry management is predicated on a pretty grand scale of marketable forestry products, something that has slipped away and is unlikely to come back in the same form and to the same degree. A different approach needs to be hammered out and I don't envy folks the difficult task.
    Thanks for the article, jniehof. I've never heard of thunderbear, and I don't have time to research him any further right now, but he brings up points that neither side seems willing to expound on very often. He does get some big details wrong, and his "unintended" puns are most definitely intended, but his heart is in the right place.

    I'm skeptical of the people who argue against the park proposal by saying it will hurt local industry or by saying things the area should fix things by going back to how things were in the past... I don't know if they've been paying attention, but the wood products industry has already been in decline since the seventies, taking the local area with it. Looking at the population trend of Millinocket, the town which is basically the canary in the wood mine, the town's population has been in steady decline for the past four decades, and is now just over half of what it was in 1970. The median age in the town is 56. Clearly, the wood products industry is not saving the area.

    And I don't pretend to have all the answers for the region, but a much more sensible plan was put forth by the town planning advisor CZB last fall. I'm on the road right now and don't have the link handy, but I'm sure someone here has it... One detail that is worth noting is that he found the town mostly hostile to the idea of broadening the tourist economy, which is insane. The businesses that appeal mainly to hikers have done quite well in the past decade compared to a lot of the others in town. Just ask Paul and Jamie at the AT Lodge.
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    A fundamental issue is that the towns were not built or well suited to be a recreational gateway and the anticipated transition to a recreational economy hasn't happened. The AT Lodge can exist as the price of property was inexpensive and the owners are dedicated and probably not driven by profit motive, they have found a way to make a buck and live off sweat equity. This is unfortunately a not so proud tradition in Maine, piece together many small seasonal jobs into something that someone can survive with year round. I expect if they would want to sell the business and a third party set of books were available, few investors would buy in. Matt Polestein of New England Outdoors is about the only major successful tourism business operator as he was the originator of the whitewater rafting industry in that area and has managed to capitalize on whatever financial opportunities he could develop off of it. He has had a high end resort on the books all permitted and designed for over 10 years at his Twin Pines facility and continues to run the Penobscot Outdoors Center. To date he has been unable to build the high end resort but has figured out how to market to the higher end tourists that I would expect be the potential visitors to the proposed park. Unfortunately , his entire operation is not well oriented to benefit directly from the traffic to the proposed NP. He is a supporter of the proposal as I expect he can leverage his whitewater rafting experience into the east branch area. The Pelletier's American Loggers restaurant was a nice addition to the area but reportedly what it mostly did was lead to the demise of other local businesses. Reportedly the major reason for its creation was a place of employment for the extended family and to capitalize on the TV show. It reportedly has been for sale and there are not a lot of takers. The AT cafť also capitalizes on AT traffic and Baxter traffic but even it is now only open part of the year. At best the owners make a living wage and I expect the equity in the place is the owners only hope to retire.

    Anyone that thinks that the Millinocket area will thrive into a tourist economy once the mill culture goes away just needs to drive over to Greenville. Unlike Millinocket there was never a mill and arguably the area has similar scenic assets and is actually a nicer gateway to the Katahdin region and I would rate the tourism potential as better than Elliotsville Plantation as it is 2 to 3 hours closer to southern New England. Plum Creek had grand plans for the former SD Warren lands in this region, they spent a lot of money permitting that grand plan and to date, they have done little or nothing as the anticipated recreational land rush melted along with the rest of the real estate market. If you visit Greenville today it is still a sleepy tourist town that survives with seasonal summer and winter snow machine traffic. Even AMC is reportedly struggling to get members to visit their Maine operation on a sustainable basis. Sure there are occasional land rushes associated when there is an overall country wide rush but the majority of the developments and camps built during the last rush can now be had at a substantial discount. Similar observations can be had looking at the Rangeley Area and the Forks. In all three areas, there are a few local businessman that capitalize on the tourism trade but the majority of the jobs are seasonal low wage work with no benefits and state government work that is requited to sustain the population.

    Contrary to popular belief, the woods product industry is not dead its just going through a painful transition from paper to renewable chemical feedstocks and renewable fuels. One quarter of the state of Maine is accessed by the Golden Road road network that terminates in Millinocket and although traffic has been heading north and west to Quebec since the GNP mills closed down, there is still a major wood products industry in the area. Prior to the fracking revolution which is currently deferring the switch to a low/no carbon economy, biomass based carbon feedstock is a sustainable low carbon altrnative. The Department of Energy has identified that one of the major sources of non fossil fuel with enough capacity to displace a portion of the fossil derived for chemical feedstocks and renewable transportation fuels will be the northern forest. Due to the developed infrastructure in the region, the Millinocket area remains very well situated to meet that demand when it arises. Much as Cate Street has been rightfully vilified for their involvement with the remnants of the papermills, their involvement is pretty well regarded as the state government trying to pass the buck down the road and Cates Street just happened to be the firm who extracted the last buck. Their primary reason for moving into the area was and still is developing a facility to manufacture a high end wood pellet product for export to Europe and this project is ongoing although the GNP fiasco has been a major distraction up to this point and may be their demise. The product they are developing is not a generic wood pellet, its a much higher btu product that is far easier to handle as it doesn't absorb moisture or degrade as readily as conventional wood pellets. There is proven market for the product both domestically and internationally and once they get a production process in place, that industry will rapidly expand. A nice aspect of this product is it uses low grade forest residuals which supplies an additional revenue stream for forest landowner to manage their land for higher value sawlogs. There is also a liquid renewable fuel product that replaces heating oil that is slowly building a user base in the region that should be building a production facility soon which is also another potential game changer for the wood products industry.

    The local forest industry is fighting the NP proposal as they are worried it is the "camels nose under the tent" and that given the Feds proclivity for regulation that the sphere of regulations in the region will be well outside the declaration boundaries of the park. With respect to air emission permits, this range can cover quite a distance away. Effectively the owner of an existing or proposed facility ends up having a higher initial and ongoing operating cost just by the stroke of a pen even though they are quite a distance away. This restriction does not apply to state parks, only federally designated class 1 areas and the designation is not made locally it is made by the federal government. There is also a general long term mistrust of giving up local control and some past missteps by prior managers at the Moosehorn NRA 20 years ago really struck a nerve in that region that remains to this day with the long term populace.

    A very small corollary can be drawn with the recent Thoreau Falls bridge thread and the uproar raised by the prior pemi bridge removal along with is mismanagement. There is little or no regional support or demand to remove bridge. In the past, managers argued successfully for its retention but with no change in regulations, NF personnel have changed their minds on the management approach and they are quite brazen to tell the locals that they have no right to provide any viable input into the process. Folks forget that if the fed had there way, there would be scenic highway along the ridge crest of the Green Mountains and a National Park in place of Baxter. In both cases local input stopped these proposals and I expect most would agree that both areas are better for it.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 06-22-2015 at 08:38 AM.

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    Here is an op/ed article from the Maine Sunday Telegram http://www.pressherald.com/2015/06/2...t-sound-right/

    The proposed park is beautiful land; particularly if you have had the chance to canoe the East Branch of the Penobscot River. However, I see very little to draw people to the proposed park other than the river. And, if the national park is actually created, the river will never be the same again-the river is wild & rugged-it will have to be tamed for the average tourist. I could not imagine the visitor draw to be any greater than Baxter so I would have to agree with the author that any possibility of jobs to be created will be less than 100, and they will be low paying service jobs.

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    Senior Member Stan's Avatar
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    I must confess, I am one of them thar "dickey bird watchers" but do agree that the last thing those people in Maine need is a national park. My biggest interest is recreation; hiking, paddling and wildlife observation. A national park will add absolutely nothing to the enjoyment I get out of my current recreation in the area. In fact, it will probably add considerably to my cost and restrictions and it will likely take much away from the recreational enjoyment of those whose primary interest may be other forms of recreation that are such a part of the fabric, economy and culture in northern Maine, especially hunting and fishing. I might note that a sore spot in many jurisdictions is the penchant of federal wildlife managers to override the frequently more knowledgeable local biologists and scientists.

    On another note: some describe the demise of the logging industry. Certainly some production is down but that is a function of two forces, both having significant cyclical influences. First, much industry has located overseas where labor is cheaper and enviromental restictions are loose. In recent years there has been the start of a drift back to "buy local" and to transportation costs being a more significant factor in total costs. I would expect this pendulum to slowly swing back in our favor. Second, the housing industry still pales in comparison to historical levels. A sustainable level of higher housing production and all the related wood products, especially once people get over their fascination with plastics, will boost the forest industries. Finaly, news paper is on the decline as more people rely on electronic news and communications. The future of that trend is someone else's guess but anyone familiar with forest land knows that, even in bad times, the asset is growing ... and, you ever notice all the logging traffic up there?

    If the Bert's Bees beneficiaries want to give away their land, I suggest they consider dividing it in some proportion as follows: Baxter Park Authority and Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands for sensitive ecological and notable passive recreation areas; Maine wildlife management areas (DIF&W I think) for rich hunting and fishing areas; local towns for managed forestry. The latter could be akin to early land grants that funded some of our colleges and universities, the transcontinental railroads and other worthwhile endeavors. I would trust the town council in Millinocket to know how to handle that land in a manner both environmentally sensitive and a net revenue contributor as opposed to a taxpayer drain ... handle it better than some "dickey" bureaucrat at a far away desk.

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    Senior Member Guthook's Avatar
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    Peakbagger, it is true that the forest products industry is not dead, and is actually more productive than before. When I said it’s in decline, I misspoke— what I should have said was that it can’t sustain the level of employment that it has in the past, and will likely never return to its heyday of providing vast employment in the Millinocket area. Someone posted to my website this bit of analysis of a Maine Woods Coalition report that shows, among other things, the amount of timber harvested annually has actually grown steadily since 1950, but overall employment has dropped. As with many industries, modern technology means we have to increase output drastically in order to sustain similar employment levels. Add in factors like the mills closing, stiff competition from other states, and higher employable population elsewhere, and the region finds itself in its current predicament.

    You say the industry will rapidly expand once the new pellet production process is in place, but it doesn’t sound like that plant is a done deal. Even if it is, Cate Street claims it will employ a whopping 55 people (plus almost 300 indirectly). That’s a far cry from the days of Great Northern. And in order to keep the building of that plant going, Millinocket is letting Cate Street off the hook for back taxes that the town can’t afford, after already taking a similar strategy with the same company that resulted in the paper mill being closed and sold.

    Moving on to other parts of the debate... We here at VFTT claim that a national park wouldn’t change how we enjoy the region, which is true for most of us. But we are not your average park visitor (national, state, or otherwise). Look around Acadia, or even the White Mountains, on a normal day, and you’ll find we don’t represent the usual crowd. Most people aren’t seasoned hikers, but they do want the “outdoors lite” experience that many national parks are great at providing. So let’s not assume that our experience is representative of the rest of the world’s.

    Many people also point out that Baxter State Park is already drawing visitors to the area, so the fact that BSP hasn’t generated enough tourism to save the town is an indicator that a national park wouldn’t do anything, either. This assumes that Baxter is way more famous than it is. Just going by frequency of web searches, Acadia is, on average, five times more popular. Since there’s no difference in effort for searching the web for either park, we can assume that this is a pretty reasonable measure of how much people want to visit. Looking at web searches for state parks vs national parks in general, it looks a little different, with state parks getting 30% more average searches, but if you take the total number of national park units (407) and compare it to the total number of state park units (6624), it’s clear national parks hold a lot more power over the American imagination.

    One of Quimby’s main reasons for wanting a national park is that the National Park Service has a strong marketing brand that not even the most popular state parks achieve. In 2007 (the only year where I can quickly find a solid number of visitors for Baxter), BSP had 60,724 visitors (see page 11). In that same year, Acadia had 2.2 million. There are many reasons for the difference, mainly the infrastructure allowing people to easily access Acadia, the fact that Acadia is better advertised as a destination, and the fact that one of BSP's primary goals is to limit the number of visitors. Looking at a national park that is similarly remote and inaccessible to Baxter, North Cascades, we see about 20,000 visitors in 2007, which is far less, but still a significant percentage of Baxter’s visits. Also, for the first 20 years of North Cascades’ designation as a national park, those annual visitation numbers were between 200,000 and 900,000. Maybe because of the burst of new visitors wanting to see the new park? I'm sure there's a solid reason, so I won't assume the numbers in Maine would be that high.

    Anyway, investing in tourism was major point in the CZB report— Millinocket has tended to disregard even the possibility of tourism as a significant part of the economy, failing to invest in improvements to the town that would lure any of those tourists from Baxter into the town itself. That’s why I brought up the AT Lodge, and Northern Outdoors, which you mentioned, is another good example. It’s not because they're a replacement for industrial employment, but because they are the few businesses in the area aggressively taking advantage of a resource that the rest of the town mostly takes for granted. And we could mention that Bangor is in favor of the park, because it would mean more people traveling through their city, which is very well set up to take advantage of tourism. Creating a national park wouldn't magically make everything better, but it would help give similar businesses a reasonable chance to exist by increasing the interest in tourism to the area-- but only if the rest of the town doesn't oppose the increase in tourism.

    The bottom line is that for any economy to be successful, it needs diversity. Looking at the population decrease and unemployment increase in the area, it’s clear that relying solely on the industry that created the towns hasn’t worked out so well in the past fifty years. Things were great for a long time, but the towns didn’t make any significant efforts at expanding their economic base, and only thinking about it now that the base is nearly gone. Most of us here are lucky in that we won’t be directly impacted whether there’s a park or not, but I’m just fascinated by watching the events play out— if the people of the region say no to an opportunity to do something differently than what they’ve been doing, or if they decide to take it, I’ll be watching either way.

    On a side note, does anyone else notice the irony of people from outside of Maine telling Mainers to say no to outsiders telling us what to do? Or in telling us to keep the Federal Government out of the state when we already have a National Park, National Forest, National Scenic Trail, ten National Wildlife Refuges, and a high ratio of Federal dollars spent to taxes paid? Yeah… let’s keep the government out.
    Last edited by Guthook; 06-23-2015 at 06:20 AM. Reason: typo
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    I totally agree that the new wood products industry is not going to employ anywhere near the numbers that it did before and the pellet plant proposal in Millinocket is not going to be a major employer initially. There is an entrenched retiree base that wishes and hopes that the good old days will come back but the young folks voted with their feet years ago. Fundamentally local and state politicians respond to the folks that vote for them and the majority of voters in the area are the retirees or former millworkers hoping to get in a few more years until they can retire. The younger working folks are mostly working on the road or have relocated. I had a project in North Conway last year and the majority of the crews were displaced workers from Millinocket or Lincoln Maine.

    Even when the mills were thriving, a lot of folks left after high school and never came back. Your timing is bit off on the decline of the industry, the plants were still cranking around 1990 and the hostile takeover by Georgia Pacific in 1991 and the subsequent stripping of assets is what doomed the facility, thus instead of 50 years, the decline was around 25 years. Contrary to popular belief there have been several local attempts to diversify the local economy in those 25 years but in the majority of the cases, they ended badly. Unfortunately a town on the rocks is a magnet for con men with a good story and the Millinocket area has seen its fair share and every failed con leaves a lot of cynics in place that eventually decide to shut out every new idea. Given Roxanne Quimby's initial missteps and blatent contempt for local concerns, there are many folks in the region that will vote against any project with her involvement.

    The circumstances that allowed Brookfield Resources to buy the hydrosystem forced them into a partnership with the local mills that they didn't want but they also didn't want to be the bad guy that shut down the mills. Their purchase of the bankrupt Inexon assets was generally regarded as a way to stifle a bid from a viable buyer. Instead Brookfield had their puppet paper company, Fraser, run the assets down by starving the facility of needed capital. The managers rapidly scrapped many valuable assets that could have been the basis of a viable operation. Brookfield has been consolidating their hydro operations elsewhere and there has a been a steady reduction in employment that formerly was based in Millinocket. Folks forget this area is supplied by the largest privately owned renewable hydropower system in the east coast, many of the lakes in the region only exist due to hydro dams and the whitewater industry wouldn't exist as a viable entity unless the hydros are in place allowing daily releases. The power from these dams now bypasses the towns but it is a future asset as its to Brookfield's advantage to sell power before it gets on the ISO grid albeit without the legislatively enacted penalties they were previously under.

    Thus with access to nearly an unlimited wood supply, large amounts of clean hydro and the remains of a large industrial site and significant supporting infrastructure, other long term projections support keeping the potential for resource based economy in the region and many in the area see a National Park Proposal diminishing this potential. Throw in a carbon tax or a significant shift away from fossil and renewable fuel and chemical feedstocks do become a gold rush quickly. Try as they might I haven't seen any long term development proposals that incorporate the regional towns and population in a tourist based economy. The studies I have seen tend to ignore anything that exists off the main street through town with the possible exception of the Millinocket town core. What kills Millinocket from a tourism based economy is its too darn far from the major population base, this is less of issue with high value added products but is a major impediment to a tourism based economy.

    The ratio of tax dollars spent to paid out in Maine are substantially distorted by the Brunswick Naval Shipyard and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (which straddles the state line). When that contribution is removed from the states economy, the ratios are inline with many other rural states.

    As for people from away and the irony of outsiders telling what the locals to do, sadly how Maine politics work is that the population in the three southern most counties had a lock on Maine government and they have been telling the folks in the rest of the state what to do for years. The locals regard the folks in southern Maine in about as low respect as people from outside the state. If it wasn't for the federal legislative delegation telling EP that they had to show local support of the region before the federal legislative staff would act on EPs behalf, these advisory referendums would not be occurring. Arguably, this forced the hand of EP and Lucas St Clair was sent in to defuse the situation. There have been attempts by groups in southern Maine who are attempting to force the issue without local support but the ongoing political turmoil in Maine government seems to have redirected their efforts elsewhere.

    I guess we will both get to see from afar how it all settles out.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Guthook's Avatar
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    I know weíre treading dangerously close to politics here, so Iím going to limit myself a bit :-)

    Millinocket, or Maine for that matter, isnít unique in that its people donít like being told by outsiders what theyíve done wrong. Thatís human nature and pretty understandable. But I have little patience for a lot of the tactics being used on the anti-park side of the debate. The pro-park side can be plenty disingenuous, but when the Maine Woods Coalition is using the 3 million acre park proposal from the 90s as the headline for their anti-park rhetoric, I see a lot of blatant dishonesty and fear mongering. They know as well as anyone that Quimbyís proposal has nothing to do with that other one, yet the front page of their website claims the larger one is the proposal. Misinformation is too nice a word for that.

    And thatís why I point out the irony of some folks saying we should keep the government out of the state, when in fact Maine already has a large federal presenceó where that money goes (whether to naval shipyards or wildlife refuges) is irrelevant. The point is that the government isnít some malevolent force thatís suddenly poking its head into the state. Itís already here, and doing plenty of good for the state. Maybe not the same kind of good that everybody wants, but the kind of good that enough people want and that coexists enough with what the other people want. No town or state or country exists in isolation, so ignoring what people from elsewhere want isnít a viable option. After all, Millinocket was created because people from somewhere else wanted something in the area enough to pay a lot of money for it, and the forces that led to the outflow of population and closing of the mills came from far outside the region as well.
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    The locals in Medway have voted as opposed to the park
    http://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/2...y-wide-margin/

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    And the results of East Millinocket's vote is in to oppose the park.

    http://bangordailynews.com/2015/06/2...in/?ref=latest

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    Could someone please provide a link to where to find Eliotsville Plantation and perhaps brief directions to the initial 'entrance' / trailhead ?

    Thanks a bunch.
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