BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Supporters of a North Woods National park funded by a founder of Burt's Bees are delivering a petition signed by more than 13,000 people to Maine's congressional delegation, they said Tuesday.
Gail Fanjoy, president of the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, said the region needs help after the closing of mills in Millinocket and East Millinocket. Also, the Old Town mill is to close in December, and the Lincoln Paper mill has filed for bankruptcy protection, she noted.
"We absolutely will continue to work hard to maintain as many forest products jobs as possible, but we also need economic diversification — which a national park can provide," she said.
Last year, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce board endorsed the proposal for a national park and recreation area on up to 150,000 acres east of Baxter State Park. The total donation by Burt's Bees founder Roxanne Quimby, including the land and $40 million for an endowment to support the park, is valued at $100 million.
Quimby wants to make the donation next year during the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
Creation of a national park would require an act of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who represents the southern 1st Congressional District, supports the park proposal. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King haven't ruled out backing a park proposal if there's local support. There was no immediate comment from the office of Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who represents the 2nd District.
Collins and King continue to focus on "the economic well-being and future of the Katahdin region and the people who call it home, and they will continue to gather and consider input from a variety of interested parties on the national park proposal, including the petitioners from Maine," they said.
Ken Olson, retired leader Friends of Acadia, said Acadia National Park, Baxter State Park, the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the Bigelow Preserve all faced opposition as well.
"Supporters of this new National Park and National Recreation Area are on the right side of history. If this opportunity is seized, economic and other benefits will start flowing into a region that desperately needs this kind of investment," Olson said in a statement.