Movement on a Maine Woods National Park?

Last year, when I was writing Massacre Pond, the conversation about whether the federal government should create a Maine North Woods National Park had softened to something less than dull murmur. The debate that had raged for years had grown very quiet. One of the reasons I wanted to write the novel was to jumpstart the discussion.

In the weeks since my book hit stores, some surprising developments have occurred. Thanks primarily to the statements and actions of Roxanne Quimby's son, Lucas St. Clair, the proposal suddenly has new life. The topic has been front page news — the biggest story on many days — in the Bangor Daily News.

So it was today:

Lucas St. Clair clearly has heard the question before. And he’s got plenty of answers that he’s happy to share. He also realizes that sometimes, it’s best to simply stand back and let Mother Nature do the talking for you.

So ask him again: What is it, exactly, that makes the central Maine land his mother bought so special, so unique, so memorable, that it ought to be preserved forever as a national park?

Ask, and he’ll bring you here, to a newly cleared promontory he knows will be a highlight should Elliotsville Plantation Inc.’s national park plan ever gain the momentum he thinks it should.

Katahdin looms in front of you, stark, magnificent. To the south, far down the valley, Millinocket Lake shimmers. More than 10 miles to the north, also visible, is Katahdin Lake. In between, miles and miles of forest.

This is the million-dollar view. St. Clair, the son of millionaire landowner Roxanne Quimby, simply calls it “the overlook,” for now. Others just say “Wow.”

“I think anyone who lives on this side, the east side of Baxter State Park, in Patten or Shin Pond, would say their view of Katahdin is the very best in the state,” St. Clair had said hours earlier, before a field trip Wednesday designed to show off some of the land that Elliotsville Plantation Inc. recently opened to the public. “And I totally agree with them.”

St. Clair makes no secret of the fact that providing for public access, which included Monday’s announcement that EPI would immediately open 40,000 acres to hunting, is a conscious decision that he hopes will help convince the public that the affected parcels are worth preserving, either as a national park or national recreation area.

I've received comments from some readers of Massacre Pond who see a suspicious coincidence in the timing of my book's publication with these new twists in an old story. But I'm not taking credit for anything. The momentum to create a Maine Woods National Park has proceeded in fits and starts for a very long time. If it's regaining strength again now, who can say why?

But if you don't live in Maine you should know that the proposal is once again the number one topic of discussion in the North Woods, just as it is in chapter one of Massacre Pond.