Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Road Not Yet Taken in the Maine Woods

Two roads are diverging in the Maine Woods. Let’s take the one that will make all the difference!

In the final days of June, two different pieces of legislation came before Maine lawmakers, and they put in stark relief our choices and our priorities. One path takes us in a circle right back to where we are now—without jobs, looking in the rear-view mirror for solutions. The other path leads us forward.

The first road was a legislative resolve that gives Maine Governor Paul LePage authority to accept on behalf of all tax payers a “gift” of the Dolby Landfill in East Millinocket – complete with $17 million of clean-up costs and unknown, unlimited future environmental liability. The billion dollar corporations and foreign investment firms that are gifting us their polluted landfill said if we don’t accept it, they will board up the two paper mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket where the unemployment rate is above 20% and sell off the equipment.

The second road was a resolution opposing the acceptance a different kind of gift. Thousands of acres of pristine wilderness, plus a $40 million endowment to create and maintain a national park in the Maine Woods, just up the street from Millinocket, East Millinocket and the Dolby Landfill. This gift comes complete with economic benefits of jobs, new residents and businesses, in addition to preserving a national treasure.

The two paths – one succumbing to corporate blackmail and clinging to the past, the other charging in to the future with a bold vision that embraces change and aspires to add value – highlight the conflict in America today about the role of government. One view is that government’s function is to serve the interests of corporations. The other view is that government works to protect the public interest and for the public good.

Shall we take the first road because we hope it brings us back to when American paper mills employed thousands of people who lived comfortably within the confines of a union-protected pay check, and when American patron landowners opened the gates to the forest for all to use? With rose-colored glasses shall we deny the realities of the unregulated global economy, and the availability of cheap labor overseas?

Or will we take the second road? The road to a magnificent national park and thriving gateway community. The path to jobs, community vitality and preservation of America's great forest. The road that will make all the difference for Maine people.


Cheryl said...

Ms. Dill, After receiving an unsolicited email in regards to the "benefit" of a North Woods park I feel I must respond. I note after visiting your blog that you are living in Cape Elizabeth. Not sure if you are from there or are from a northern town but would ask you how much time have you spent in the Millinocket area or surrounding towns? I can tell you that my parents were both born and raised there and my family has spent summers there for over 40 years. The remedy to the loss of jobs for this area in NOT in a seasonal park. Baxter park is already esablished and known nationaly. It receives thousands of visitors each year. Another park is not needed. The help needed is to secure a long term manufacturing facility or a company to reopen the mills in the area. All of this effort comes from a woman (Quimby) who took her highly successful business out of the great state of Maine to give the jobs to out of state workers. Now she wants our support in a park with her name on it? No thanks! I have watched as she has shut out campholder after campholder from her properties. Our family camp was built by hand by my grandfather and sits on leased land. This land grows ever closer to "her" purchases and I am sure in my lifetime we will loose our family treasure to people like her with the millions of dollars to support the purchases. The community can be helped without a park by people investing in events and festivals that will return year after year. Will that end the unemployment rates no, and neither will seasonal low wage jobs from the park either. Long term sustainable businesses need to be sought out to plant their roots. So I say to your unsolicited email for my support of a North Woods Park, you will not have this northern womans support! I would encourage all of those who think this park is needed to visit this great area as is and enjoy the true Maine beauty offered there in the trails surrounding Katahdin. Take a walk into view the Moose at Mud Brook or dip your feet into the cool running waters of Roaring Brook. Visit and enjoy, no need to build it up. If after spending a week in the area you can truly see a need to expand the "wilderness" offered then I applaude your efforts. My guess it that not many of those supporting the park have spent more than a day or two a year overnight, or even camping in all of the fabulous areas already offered.

Jim said...

I like the two roads analogy.

I worry that too many people in Maine are wedded to the past, invested in conservative politicians without a vision, thinking that we can return Maine to the 1950s and everything will be perfect, again.

Knowing Maine's history, things weren't perfect 50 years ago, and in order for Maine to move forward, it's going to take more than Tea Party slash and burn tactics, and EPA roll backs to put Maine in a place where we can compete with the other 49 states, not to mention other countries.

A colleague put the E & Y in front of me today citing Maine's ranking of #1 in terms of ETR on new investment.

Why aren't ME's Republican's citing this as a tool to attract investment in ME?

I know, it's too easy to bitch and complain about what others aren't doing or haven't done than rolling up their own sleeves and getting to work on the issues at hand.