A hiker from South Jersey had to be rescued from one of Maine’s highest mountains on Saturday afternoon.
The unidentified 29-year-old woman from Moorestown was medevaced off Pamola Peak in Baxter State Park when she fell ill while hiking with five other people, park officials said in a news release.
It took a park ranger 80 minutes to reach the group after a 911 call was placed at 11:57 a.m. The Maine Army National Guard Air Evac unit removed the woman at 4:20 p.m. and flew her to Millinocket Regional Hospital after it was determined she’d require further treatment.
Officials noted that had there been lower cloud cover or rainy weather, an evacuation by helicopter would not have been possible. Instead, transporting a patient from the 4,919 foot mountain to the nearest road would have required 30-40 people and would have taken 24-36 hours to complete, according to park officials.
Pamola Peak is about a mile away from Baxter Peak on Mount Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine at 5,267 feet.
The more than 200,000 acre park is in the wilderness of north-central Maine and is roughly the same size as Middlesex County, New Jersey.
The federal government isn’t coming to the Katahdin region to steal land.
Jonathan Jarvis, head of the National Park Service, is not coming to Maine today in preparation for a federal takeover. He’s not even here to find a way to protect the land in question – owned by conservationist Roxanne Quimby, the 87,500-acre parcel east of Baxter State Park will likely remain as it is in perpetuity, regardless of the outcome of the national park debate.
No, Jarvis is in Maine to see whether the land should receive the significant exposure and prominence that comes with a federal designation, and whether the designation can be administered in a way that satisfies local concerns.
The people of the Katahdin region, and everyone with a stake in the future of the area, should enter that discussion with good faith, because the highest and best use of the Quimby property is as a national monument then a national park, with the potential to draw thousands of new visitors, as well as new investment.
PATH TO A PARK
Jarvis plans to hold public meetings today in Orono and East Millinocket, both moderated by Sen. Angus King, and the latter with selectmen from five Millinocket-area communities.
Following a visit to the region in 2014, and coming soon after Maine’s congressional delegation and the Obama administration exchanged letters regarding the land’s future, the meetings are seen as a signal that President Obama is considering the land for a national monument designation.
Available to the president to unilaterally protect “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest,” the designation is often a precursor to a national park, which requires an act of Congress.
That’s the path taken by Grand Canyon and Grand Teton national parks, as well as our own Acadia National Park, which like Quimby’s proposal faced stiff opposition, but now sees more than 2 million visitors a year.
Although a North Woods national park enjoys strong statewide support – 67 percent, according to one poll – as well as the backing of the Katahdin area chamber of commerce and Rotary Club, nonbinding referendums in towns near the land have gone overwhelmingly against the idea, and the forest products industry that drives the region’s economy is strongly against it, as well.
The skepticism is understandable. Maine has very little experience dealing with federal ownership of land. Instead, almost unfettered public use of private property has allowed recreation and industry to live symbiotically for generations.
A WAY TO COEXIST
There is fear that the involvement of the federal government would disrupt that, adding to all the change and uncertainty already gripping the region.
But there’s no reason a park can’t coexist with the forest products industry while bringing its own benefits, which include the distinction of being a national park and the massive marketing power that comes with it.
A study commissioned by Quimby’s organization, and reviewed by well-regarded economists, predicts a 150,000-acre national park – the ultimate goal, supported by a $40 million endowment from Quimby – would create 450-1,000 jobs with above-average pay, just as parks have done in areas of similar size and demographics.
Alternately, harvesting timber on the land would sustain only 21 jobs, and contribute less than 1 percent of the total harvest in Maine.
But concerns remain about how the park would affect the surrounding area. Will it cut off long-standing snowmobile trails and logging roads? Will it impose tighter enviromental restrictions that limit the ability of the forest products industry to operate? Will its boundaries eventually expand without the input of local residents?
Those concerns were laid out in a letter to Jarvis from the congressional delegation – minus Rep. Chellie Pingree, who is in favor of a park – and Jarvis is open to addressing them.
Wariness of the park proposal is reasonable, as is the need to get assurances, in writing, that opponents’ fears won’t be realized.
But dismissing the proposal out of hand because the federal government is involved is absurd, and detrimental to the future of the region.
In 2000, Robbins Lumber put a conservation easement on the 20,767 acres surrounding Nicatous and West Lakes to protect the land forever. In addition, the state acquired 76 islands and 243 acres connecting to the Duck Lake Public Reserve Unit.
I told Roxanne Quimby about this project in 2011 at a meeting of the Maine Forest Products Council because I wanted her to know she had other options — options that would unite Mainers, not divide them. Her answer was, “There is no plan B. It is a national park or nothing. There are no other options.”
I oppose her park and national recreation area because she only owns 87,500 acres of the 150,000 acres she promises to donate. The other 63,500 acres are owned by many individual landowners — many of the parcels have been in these landowners’ families for generations. How would you like it if someone promised to give your land away? Threatened? You bet.
She has tried to win over the people of the Katahdin region with the prospect of jobs based on the theory that her park would attract 15 percent, or 375,000, of Acadia’s visitors each year, leading to the creation of 450 jobs. But her park would never attract six times as many visitors as Baxter State Park. Baxter has 200,000 acres, including Mt. Katahdin, compared to the proposed 150,000 acres of the national park. Baxter employs only 21 full-time and 40 part-time workers.
National parks and monuments are built in areas of spectacular beauty or historical significance. The proposed park is mostly cut-over timberland and has very little to attract tourists. The only exceptional beauty in the area already is included and protected in Baxter State Park. The park proponents always show pictures of Katahdin, which won’t be in the proposed park, in their videos and advertisements, which is very misleading to the public.
National parks don’t allow timber harvesting, so they soon become full of over-mature, insect-infested and diseased trees. A National Park Service publication on forest management in Yellowstone National Park states that large fires are mandatory in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in order to maintain it in a natural manner. Since the 1970s, park officials have allowed some 300 natural fires to burn themselves out. In recent decades, 1,250 square miles burned in Yellowstone, 402 square miles burned in Yosemite and many square miles burn virtually every year in Glacier National Park.
Have we already forgotten the devastating forest fires out West last summer? Do we want that policy to exist in our beautiful managed forests in Maine? I think not. Forest fires don’t respect boundary lines, so all lands surrounding the park will be threatened.
An average acre of woodland in Maine produces 0.35 cords of wood per year and is worth $1,280 with value added. Some 150,000 acres of forest should, therefore, produce 52,500 cords per year, which works out to an annual loss to the Maine GDP of more than $67 million. At a recent conference on Maine’s paper industry, speakers stated that one reason paper mills are having a hard time surviving is because of the high cost of wood. Taking the equivalent of six townships out of production certainly isn’t going to help. Even though the paper mills in the Millinocket region are gone, that wood is needed by other mills in the state, as Maine is still a net importer of wood.
Our family has operated a sawmill in Searsmont for five generations. I know we need to manage all of our productive woodlands wisely to supply wood products for the earth’s ever-growing population, which is expanding at a rate of 80 million people per year. The United States already has 266 million acres of national parks, wilderness areas and preserves where no wood can be cut. That’s about 13 times the size of the entire size of the state of Maine. How much more do we need?
If a national park is established, there will always be the danger of it expanding. Acadia National Park is constantly expanding and just recently added 1,400 acres on Schoodic Peninsula despite a 1986 law that the park service would never expand beyond then-agreed-upon boundaries.
I urge Quimby to establish a conservation easement such as Nicatous Lake. It would be available for recreation, it would remain in the tax base, wildlife and other resources would be protected and the wood would still be available. Everyone comes out a winner.
James L. Robbins is former president and owner of Robbins Lumber in Searsmont.
When Pennsylvania Police Captain Michael Yanchak of the Peters Township police department retires Jan. 6, the 33-year department veteran will be anything but idle.
He plans on hiking the Appalachian Trail, the 2,200-mile marked trail that stretches north from Mount Katahdin in northern Maine south to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
“Being able to walk through a piece of history intrigues me,” said Yanchak, 64.
Besides Maine and Georgia, the trail goes through parts of New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. It is also in close proximity to major battlefield sites such as Antietam and Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.
“The United States is very large and I have gotten to see it in bits and pieces,” said Yanchak, an avid hiker. “But, I feel like I’ve missed a lot.”
Yanchak has been busy prepping for the excursion at his Canonsburg home. For months, he has been dehydrating food, pouring over maps, reading and talking with people who have hiked the trail for tips. He said his wife Melody, their daughters, Meredith, 33, a theater teacher in Texas and Melissa, 35, a keyboardist in Arkansas, and their son Michael, 36, a one-man vocal band who lives in Pittsburgh, have been extremely supportive. In fact, Meredith plans on hiking with him in June, when she is on summer vacation.
“My kids have all back packed since they have been 4 or 5,” he said. “They have all been hounding me for my daily itinerary.”
Yanchak said he will begin his hike somewhere in southern New England in May and walk 15 to 20 miles a day. To prepare for his journey, Yanchak said he will begin taking progressively longer hikes with a 35-pound backpack to make sure he is in shape.
“Bears won’t bother me,” he said.
Besides fulfilling his goal, Yanchak said he views the upcoming trip, which should last six to 10 months, as cathartic. He said he doesn’t know whether he will miss police work, despite being a police officer half his life. He also doesn’t know whether he will go back to work, or remain retired.
“When I come off the trail, everything should be clearer,” he said.
Yanchak started out his law enforcement career as a state corrections officer in Montgomery County. After three years, he left that position and enlisted the military and became a military police officer. Following a three-year stint in the service, he returned to work as a corrections officer, but when an opening on the Peters Township police was posted, he applied and got the job. It also gave him an opportunity to return home to Western Pennsylvania.
“I believe we all have to give something back to society,” Yanchak said. “Me being a police officer is my way of giving back.”
Yanchak said he has been on a number of interesting calls over the years as a police officer, including one on a hot Memorial Day weekend several years ago. He was called to administer CPR on a man who was having a heart attack. Yanchak said he saved the man’s life. But a month later, the man shows up at the police department.
“He wanted to complain to the chief I broke his ribs,” said Yanchak, who was the only person in the station at the time. He said man did not recognize him. “I took his name and said I would leave a message for the chief and I did.”
Experience Mount Katahdin and the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. 2181 miles, 14 states. Great video!
More about Mount Katahdin and the Appalachian Trail
Mount Katahdin (pronounced: kah-Tah-din) is the tallest mountain in Maine at 5,269 feet (1,606 m or just shy of a mile). The mountain was named ‘Katahdin’ by the Penobscot Indians. The term means “The Greatest Mountain” in their language. Katahdin is the centerpiece of Baxter State Park: a steep, tall mountain formed from a granite intrusion weathered to the surface above the treeline. The flora and fauna on the mountain are those typically found in other regions in northern New England. Katahdin has been known since time immemorial to the Native Americans in the region, and has been known to Europeans since, at least, 1689. Or, possibly, long before. It has inspired hikers, climbers, journal narratives, paintings, local hit songs and a piano sonata. The area around the peak was protected by Governor Percival Baxter starting in the 1930s and is now known as Baxter State Park. Katahdin is the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, and is located near a stretch known as the Hundred-Mile Wilderness.