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Reports show economic potential of new Maine national park

    PORTLAND — Elliotsville Plantation, which is considering a donation of land to create a national park and recreation area in Maine, on Feb. 14 released two new reports that examine the impact of parks on similar communities around the country and the potential impact in Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.

    “By looking at regions that are similar to Penobscot and Piscataquis counties, we see strong evidence that a national park or a combination of a national park and a recreation area can help the economy to grow faster,” said Lucas St. Clair, president of the board for Elliotsville Plantation. “The economy and the population of the two counties have shifted dramatically over time. A regional approach that builds on the area’s strengths, paired with investments in things such as education, could lead to new jobs, new industries and new opportunities for the more rural parts of Penobscot and Piscataquis.”

    The two reports released review the regional economy of Penobscot and Piscataquis counties and conduct a comparison of 16 similar communities elsewhere in the U.S. with a national park, a national park and recreation area or recreation area only.

    Charles Colgan, Maine economist and associate director of the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research, reviewed the reports and described them as well-done and well-presented.

    “Together the reports provide strong evidence that an economic development strategy for north-central Maine based on the development of a national park and/or recreation area could successfully halt or reverse the increasingly distressed conditions in this regional economy,” Colgan said.

    The reports found that communities adjacent to national parks or national parks and recreation areas outpaced the U.S. average and Penobscot and Piscataquis counties for economic growth, including population, employment and real personal income. Regions with only a recreation area showed mixed performance.

    “A national park and recreation area has the potential to stimulate tourism and attract new people, including a younger population,” said Ben Alexander, associate director for Headwaters Economics. “There’s the potential to create, directly and indirectly, more than a thousand jobs over time. A more conservative estimate suggests that attracting just 15 percent of the visitors to Acadia National Park would create about 450 jobs.”

    Headwaters Economics is an independent, nonprofit research group with a mission of improving community development and land management decisions. Headwaters’ work was reviewed by prominent Maine economists and public policy experts, who helped to inform the way the research was conducted and to ensure that it is accurate.

    The reports are available online at:

    To create the report, the researchers worked on the assumption that there would be up to 150,000 acres of land donated to the National Park Service, of which 75,000 acres would be a national park and 75,000 would be a national recreation area.

    There is no specific plan concerning the creation of a national park, St. Clair said. Any park would be contained within discrete and finite boundaries, which have not been developed, and the assumptions used in the report are not a statement of position or a prejudgment of any forthcoming plan. Instead, it is a broad generality to allow for comparisons.

    “We have a lot more work to do, more conversations to have and a lot more to learn to help shape a possible plan for a national park. But providing Headwaters Economics with a broad concept was necessary to develop the analysis,” St. Clair said. “Elliotsville Plantation is committed to helping protect the special places in our state and preserving access to recreational activities including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and snowmobiling. We are continuing to explore how these goals might be advanced through the creation of a national park and a recreational area.”

    The potential national park and recreation area would be on land owned by Elliotsville Plantation east of Baxter State Park along the East Branch of the Penobscot River. Video of the area, can be found at:

    Elliotsville Plantation was established in 2002 as a private operating foundation for the acquisition and conservation of land and the preservation of open space for the benefit of the public and the conduct of educational and stewardship programs. The foundation now manages more than 100,000 acres of wild forest and coastal lands in northern, north-central, and mid-coast Maine.

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