5 percent increase in visitors to Katahdin Woods & Waters
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument saw a modest increase in visitors this summer, and the superintendent hopes for even more visitors once highway signs are installed.
Overall, the number of visitors to the 87,500-acre property grew about 5 percent based on year-to-year data at existing road counters, Superintendent Tim Hudson said. This year, additional counters were used for a count of 20,000 visitors during the 2018 season, he said.
Hudson looks forward to seeing whether road signs lead to a bigger increase in 2019.
Construction and installation of signs were delayed this fall because initial bids were higher than expected. Hudson said he has secured a $60,000 contract for the signs to be delivered this winter; there will be a second bidding process for installation to be completed in the spring.
Road signs have been a sore spot for supporters of the national monument, created on land donated by the family of Burt’s Bees co-founder Roxanne Quimby.
The administration of Republican Gov. Paul LePage initially balked at installation of the signs, pending completion of a Trump administration review of national monument designations by predecessors. Trump accused the previous administration of turning a 1906 law that lets the president protect federal land into a “massive federal land grab.” The Maine monument survived the review.
All told, there will be six large signs for Interstate 95, and 16 secondary road signs directing motorists to the land, Hudson said.
The wilderness east of Baxter State Park includes a 17-mile loop road with an overlook featuring views of Maine’s tallest mountain, Mount Katahdin; trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling; and paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.
The next milestone for the monument is completion of a management plan that will lay out the vision for the land, including additional improvements and structures. A draft plan is expected within a year, triggering a public comment period, Hudson said.
Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the foundation set up by Quimby, has the right to move forward with a visitor center on the land, Hudson said. A parcel in the area above Lunksoos Camps with views of the entire property is under consideration.