PORTLAND, Maine — Road signs directing motorists to the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument are going to be installed — eventually — now that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has relented in his opposition to the signs on Interstate 95 and state roads leading to the Mount Katahdin region.
The Maine Department of Transportation will allow signs to be manufactured and installed now that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended keeping the monument and a renewed request has been submitted by the superintendent for the federal land, the governor’s office said.
“This is fantastic news. This is what I’ve been waiting to hear,” Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land, said Tuesday.
It’s unclear when the signs would be installed, however.
The Maine DOT is still sorting out placement, size and costs, and there’s no timetable for erecting the signs, Ted Talbot, Maine DOT spokesman, said Tuesday.
The request made by Katahdin Woods and Waters Superintendent Tim Hudson, first reported by Maine Public, seeks six signs on Interstate 95 and 11 additional signs on major state roads.
The largest of the signs is roughly 8-by-22 feet and typically cost between $10,000 and $15,000, he said Tuesday.
The wooded wilderness includes a 17-mile loop road with stunning views of Mount Katahdin, Maine’s tallest mountain, along with trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling, and paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.
But motorists would be hard-pressed to find it without a map. There are no official signs, and a homemade sign was removed by state officials.
St. Clair said he’s heard from many people who’ve inquired about which exit to take on I-95 or reported that they got lost.
Last year, the LePage administration balked at the signs pending completion of a review by the Trump administration. But Zinke has since visited the land, described it as “beautiful country” and recommended no changes to the 87,500-acre (137-square-mile) property.
Supporters of the federal land managed by the National Park Service said the lack of signs hurt the ability to draw visitors to the economically troubled Katahdin region.
Katahdin Woods and Waters was visited by at least 15,000 people in its first year, and the number doubles when snowmobiles are added to the mix.
*photo – FILE – In this Aug. 6, 2017, file photo, motorists travel on Rte. 11 south of Patten, Maine, near the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Road signs directing motorists to the national monument are going to be installed now that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has relented in his opposition to the signs on Interstate 95 and state roads leading to the Mount Katahdin region. The Maine Department of Transportation will allow signs to be manufactured and installed now that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has recommended keeping the monument and a renewed request has been submitted by the superintendent for the federal land, the governor’s office said. Robert F. Bukaty / AP
Proceeds will benefit the park and Friends of Baxter State Park programs.
Friends of Baxter State Park is holding a sign auction through Dec. 6.
The nonprofit organization that helps support and preserve the wilderness of the 209,644-acre park, is auctioning off retired Baxter State Park trail signs as a fundraiser.
The auction includes 15 signs from favorite locations like Mount OJI, the Saddle Trail, Katahdin Lake, the Freezeout Trail, the Appalachian Trail, Kidney Pond and Mount Coe.
A special addition to the auction is the dinner bell from Kidney Pond Camps, a historic Maine sporting camp that is now one of Baxter State Park’s most popular campgrounds.
“These signs are one-of-a-kind keepsakes for anyone who enjoys hiking and camping in Baxter State Park” said Aaron Megquier, the executive director of the Friends group, in a news release. Many of the signs are well-worn, showing their exposure to harsh alpine conditions — or in some cases, the park’s resident wildlife.
The organization will donate half of the auction proceeds directly to Baxter State Park. The remaining proceeds will support Friends programs such as the Baxter Youth Conservation Corps, a new program that hires teens from the Katahdin region for summer trail work in the park.
Bidding closes at midnight Wednesday, Dec. 6. The auction is entirely online and may be accessed at 32auctions.com/fbsp.
Katahdin Woods And Waters National Monument: A Pretty Magical Place
“Perhaps I most fully realized that this was primeval, untamed, and forever untamable Nature, or whatever else men call it, while coming down this part of the mountain.” — Henry David Thoreau.
Thoreau’s impression of the Maine North Woods, penned during one of his three trips to the region in the 1840s and 1850s, more than likely would have been different had he visited in winter today.
Though the woods still appear primeval in some spots, the hand of man is evident since Thoreau’s days. This winter, the first visitors will explore Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument by snowshoe, snowmobile, and skis. They’ll find an inviting landscape of thousands of acres of backcountry.
Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated 87,500 acres through its Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., nonprofit to the federal government in late August to create the monument, recalls: “Some of the more memorable experiences for me over the years have been going in the winter to really remote sections of the monument on skis. You just see so much stuff that you typically don’t see. Moose at really short range. You can see all the tracks so much more clearly.
“It’s really cool to be skiing along and see all these lynx tracks and drops of blood in the snow where a lynx had eaten a rabbit. You don’t see that stuff in any other season,” he adds.
Elliotsville Plantation, has cut roughly 20 kilometers of crosscountry ski trails near the northern tip of the monument, and 32 miles of snowmobile trails over the years. Those trails, with their connections to Baxter State Park and other snowmobile routes, offer nearly 100 miles of trail to explore.
Winter visitors can choose from a number of other lodging options:
- Mount Chase Lodge is just 16 miles from the monument, on Shin Pond, operated by the same family for past 40 years. They have private cabins, main lodge rooms, with fare such as pan-seared salmon with blueberry chutney and grilled marinated Portobello mushrooms.
- The New England Outdoor Center cabins can accommodate from six to 14 guests, and are just 8 miles from Millinocket. St. Clair says, “They have snowmobile rentals, ski rentals, and there’s skiing trails right there at the lodge, and you can easily access the monument for snowmobiling from the lodge.”
- The Matagamon Wilderness Lodge’s cabins can handle up to a dozen, and it’s right at the entrance of the monument’s cross-country ski trails.
“From a national park perspective, people think of Acadia National Park and the summer on the coast,” says St. Clair. “But the winter inland is really a pretty magical place.”