New park



To the Editor:

The Natural Resources Council of Maine last week released the results of two public opinion survey questions about a proposal to establish a new National Park and National Recreation Area on 150,000 acres of land east of Baxter State Park. The questions, included in the Spring Critical Insights of Maine Tracking Survey, show that registered Maine voters support creation of a new National Park and National Recreation Area by a 2:1 margin, with support growing to a 3:1 margin following a simple, factual description of the proposal.

The survey shows that support exceeds opposition among men, women, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, and also shows that there is essentially no difference in the level of support between Congressional District 1 and Congressional District 2.

Voters in CD 1 and CD 2 support the proposal by a 2:1 margin before information about the project is provided, and the level of support jumps to 3:1 following a description.

The full Critical Insights survey, released April 8, included questions on a broad range of public policy issues. Data was gathered from a sample of 601 interviews between March 24 and March 29, 2015, with an associated sample error of +/- 4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. NRCM sponsored the questions to learn more about the levels of support for the proposal across different demographic groups in Maine.

Elliotsville Plantation Inc. (EPI) is proposing to create a new National Park and National Recreation Area in the Katahdin Region that would be up to 150,000 acres in size. EPI would donate most of the land for the proposal and would secure a $40 million endowment to help pay for operations and maintenance costs.

Over the past few years, the proposal has been shaped based on input from businesses and residents in the Katahdin region. As such, most people in Maine have not yet learned much about the current proposal – and this is borne out by the Critical Insights data.

Although Maine voters support a new National Park and National Recreation Area by a 45 percent to 23 percent margin, one-third (32 percent) of the survey respondents indicated that they had not heard enough about the proposal to have an opinion. When factual information is provided about the proposal, the level of support vs. opposition jumps to 59 percent to 20 percent, as undecided voters become supportive of the proposal.

NRCM contacted a few individuals in the Katahdin region to get their reactions to these survey results and received the following input.

“This data absolutely tracks with what I’m seeing on the ground here in the Katahdin region,” said Gail Fanjoy, President of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce. “There is a sea change underway in the level of support for this project, and I can tell you that once people understand what it is – and what it isn’t – they become supporters. Interestingly, the survey didn’t even describe the economic and job-creation benefits of creating a new National Park and National Recreation Area. If that had been included, I bet support would have soared even further.”

“We are heartened to know that people across Maine strongly support this proposal,” said Marsha Donahue, owner of North Light Gallery in Millinocket. “It means a lot to us that the people of Maine care about helping our economy in the Katahdin region, which is suffering badly.”

Pete Didisheim

Natural Resources Council of Maine

Augusta

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