County commissioners not in favor of Mount Katahdin name change
DOVER-FOXCROFT — Maine’s highest peak in Baxter State Park is named for an Abenaki word meaning greatest or main mountain. The possibility of changing the official name of Mount Katahdin to Katahdin — which would be made by the Maine Legislature — was proposed by Baxter State Park Director Eben Sypitkowski to the Piscataquis County Commissioners. The commissioners made no formal motion, but expressed that they would not be in favor of such an adjustment during discussions as part of a Sept. 17 meeting.
County Manager Michael Williams said Sypitkowski made the request in an email. “As he explains the reasoning behind it, it’s a grammatical error the way it is with the Aabenaki language — like Mount Greatest Mountain.”
Williams said Sypitkowski will be talking with park officials about the possible name change, but he wanted to receive feedback from the commissioners with Mount Katahdin being in Piscataquis County.
“My thoughts are it’s been close to 200 years on our maps,” Commissioners Chair James White said. “It’s been Mount Katahdin and it’s just now we’re hearing about people being offended? It’s going to be an expense to do all of this and it’s going to be decades before this is changed.”
“People are going to call it Mount Katahdin anyway,” Commissioner Jim Annis said.
White mentioned two decades ago Big Squaw and Little Squaw mountains outside of Greenville were changed to Big Moose and Little Moose respectively, to avoid the use of the offensive word. He said he does not see the inclusion of Mount before Katahdin as a similar situation.
“I don’t see that this rises to where we need to do something because it’s been insulting to a tribe for so long,” White said.
“I don’t see the rationale for spending this kind of money,” the chair said. He said maps and road signs would all have to be changed and with the various tourism businesses also needing to remove the word the combined cost could be in the millions for everyone.
Commissioner Wayne Erkkinen said Mount Katahdin would be the correct way to say the name of the peak in English. He said there is also a high school serving Penobscot and Aroostook county communities named for the mountain and Katahdin Iron Works in Piscataquis County.
“We have plenty of things to spend money on, this is not one of them,” Erkkinen said.
Williams said he would let Sypitkowski know of the commissioners’ thoughts.
In other business, approval was granted to a request from the Bodfish ATV Riders Club to open the Onawa Road in Elliottsville Township to ATV traffic from the parking lot to the Elliottsville Road to allow for trail access at both ends of the approximate 3-mile stretch of travelway.
“We’re neutral, we don’t have any concerns,” Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Todd Lyford said.
The Bodfish ATV Riders Club will fund and post access and 25 mph speed limit signs on the stretch of the Onawa Road.
In his report, Wiliams said he is awaiting the final inspection report for the Guilford Medical Building.
“It should be done in the next day or two,” he said.
To alleviate cramped conditions and lack of privacy inside the main sheriff’s office in the same larger complex as the Piscataquis County Jail on Court Street in Dover-Foxcroft, in the spring of 2018 the patrol and investigation divisions of the Piscataquis County Sheriff’s Office moved up Route 15 to Guilford at the former primary school building. The law enforcement space previously was the home of the SAD 4 administrative office suite.
With the school building for sale county officials are working with the town of Guilford on an agreement to rent and then purchase, following an affirmative vote at the annual town meeting in mid-March, the C.H. Lightbody Medical Center on Park Street. In April Mayo Regional Hospital closed its primary care office in Guilford after experiencing significant provider turnover in the previous year and a half. Guilford Medical Associates was housed there via a lease with the town.
Last month the commissioners voted to relocate the patrol office starting in November. The Guilford selectmen are set to vote on a building contract during their October meeting — prior to Nov. 1 — and the commissioners will also take a formal vote on the agreement.
Some tiles in the building lobby have curled and the county’s head of maintenance Joshua York will take a look to come up with a remedy.
“We need it safe and that is right in the main foyer,” White said. “Even if you know it’s there, it’s deceptive. I don’t think we need a new floor in, we just need something people aren’t going to trip over.”