Road signs in the works as monument’s anniversary approaches
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — At long last, Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will soon have highway signs directing motorists to the federal recreation area, which boasts hiking, canoeing and camping, along with stunning views of Maine’s tallest mountain, Mount Katahdin.
The road signs won’t be installed before the monument’s second anniversary this Friday, but the process is underway, Superintendent Tim Hudson said.
The National Park Service this month requested bids for 16 secondary road signs that will be installed before year’s end, along with six large signs for Interstate 95 that will likely be installed in the spring, Hudson said.
“The next step is seeing them in the ground,” Hudson said from Millinocket. “I want to be there when the first sign gets planted.”
The 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 LePage administration balked installation of the signs, pending completion of a review by the Trump administration. But the state relented after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recommended that the 87,500-acre (137-square-mile) property be retained.
In addition to helping motorists, the signs are another indication of the permanency of the federal recreational area in the North Maine Woods, said Andrew Bossie, executive director of the Friends of the Katahdin Woods and Water National Monument.
“The monument is here to stay,” he said. “Every indication after the Zinke review is that neither the size nor the existence is threatened.”
The wooded wilderness includes a 17-mile loop road with an overlook where people can gaze upon Mount Katahdin, along with trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling, and paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.
This year, about 8,000 people visited during the summer season so far, putting it on pace with the first full year visitation of 16,000 last year, Hudson said.
Many people are determined to visit, so the signs aren’t that important. But they will steer others toward the park who might not have otherwise stopped, he said.
For the anniversary, the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters are hosting a celebration this Saturday at Shin Pond Village in Mount Chase.
Lucas St. Clair, who is Quimby’s son and led the effort to win support for the monument, said he is happy with the progress over the past two years.
“My hunch all along was that this was going to take some time and that we have to have some patience,” he said. “But it’s all moving in the right direction.”