By Ramona du Houx
Six months after President Barack Obama created a new national monument in Maine, a new nonprofit organization, Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, has formed to support Maine’s new national monument. Maine's open wild spaces draw people to the state to recreate and spend millions. Over 22 million tourists flock to the state every year to see the state's natural beauty.
Many residents see the wisdom of protecting this monument and ensuring its upkeep. They understand the tremendous value the Katahdin region has. But some others, for their own reasons, distrust the National Park Service.
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters, private group, is not part of the National Park Service but intends to enter into an agreement to work collaboratively with and support the mission of the National Park Service that manages the monument.
“Initially, the friends group will focus on building volunteer opportunities, developing education programs and advocating for the monument,” said Lucas St. Clair, president of the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Eventually, the nonprofit organization will provide financial support for specific projects in the monument and surrounding communities, raise private funds to supplement—not replace—federal appropriations, protect the integrity of the monument and its resources, and speak for users in the betterment of monument operations.”
Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will work to preserve and protect the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality and distinctive cultural resources of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument and surrounding communities for the inspiration and enjoyment of all generations.
“Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument can become a first-class destination for visitors to northern Maine,” said Anita Mueller, vice president of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “I look forward to working with the National Park Service to develop services, facilities and programs that will make the experience of visiting the national monument a wonderful, lifetime memory.”
“All of us at Friends of Acadia are excited by this announcement and want to welcome the Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters into the community of friends groups that help serve national parks and national monuments throughout the country,” said David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia in Bar Harbor Maine.
“Friends of Acadia has received incredible support from volunteers, businesses, and surrounding communities who want to give back to Acadia, and public-private partnerships like this will only become more important in the future. We look forward to being a resource and partner with our friends to the north.” Friends of Acadia has granted more than $25 million to the park and surrounding communities since its founding in 1986 in support of dozens of projects, including youth programs, restoration of Acadia’s trails and carriage roads, and establishment of the fare-free Island Explorer bus system.
While their is a tremdous amount of support for the Katahdin National Monument, Maine's Governor LePage has sounded off in a negaitive way, wanting the designation taken away by President Trump. LePage wrote a letter to the new President asking to abolish the designation, although the region has already seen an upswing in interest and tourism since Obama's ruling.
“Already we have seen opportunities to partner with the National Park Service,” said Terry Hill from Mt. Chase. “This winter, our local snowmobile club partnered with the National Park Service to put new decking on two snowmobile bridges within the national monument. I look forward to working with the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters to find additional opportunities to improve the visitors’ experience at the national monument. We want to increase the number of people who are involved in making the monument better.”
“We know that the national monument has many valuable historical artifacts from the days when Native people traveled up the Penobscot for hunting and fishing to the storied times of log drives and paper making,” said Don Hudson, treasurer of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters could help the national monument protect those artifacts and tell those stories to thousands of visitors.”
“The national monument currently has some excellent hiking, paddling, biking and cross country skiing,” said Cathy Johnson, secretary of Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters. “But there could be much more. We look forward to helping the National Park Service identify and develop additional opportunities for active, outdoor recreation.”
The Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters is launching with a thirteen-member board of directors with an immediate goal of attracting additional members. The public can join the group by going to https://friendsofkatahdinwoodsandwaters.org
“There has been an outpouring of support for the national monument since it was created,” said Molly Ross, from Arlington, VA. “Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters will provide a place for supporters from Maine to Mississippi to Montana and beyond to go to find out what is going on in the national monument and how they can help support it.”