Down the Road a Piece
To Park or not to Park
Folks in the Millinocket area don’t seem to get it.
Here’s a chance to get jobs, make some money, and not be dreaming of a life that never will be again.
Roxanne Quimby’s trying to give you that chance. I’ve been around Acadia National Park since 1992, and from what I’ve seen here, I’d say grab the chance Quimby is offering.
I know. You’re tough guys and gals. No flippin’ outsider is going to tell you what to do -- especially if it doesn’t fit the old tradition you’re used to following.
But you do want a job, don’t you?
I was a reporter over in South Paris for a dozen years. I saw the old mills one by one go out of business. Nobody was buying their stuff. They closed. I had a son, who worked in one of those mills. Until it closed. He left the state to find a career that wouldn’t close.
One of the mills, an old sled factory, probably the oldest in the nation, burned to the ground one winter night. I remember hurrying through the snow to get pictures.
A man walking the other way said, “Why don’t you get a job?”
A job? Did he think I was running through the snow at the scene of a major fire as a hobby? I had a job.
I wonder if the man had a job. I wonder if that burning mill had been his job. Or had his job ended, because another mill was no longer needed?
We didn’t have a national park in South Paris. We didn’t have a state park. South Paris didn’t have much left.
I returned there to visit and found an old friend, who published a tiny newspaper, leaning against a building.
I walked up to him and said, “Hey, what are you doing?”
“Waiting,” he said.
I thought I didn’t have time to wait. I was already writing for a paper near Acadia National Park. That’s where the jobs were.
The paper hired me to cover the park. I told them I knew nothing about seagoing boats. There weren’t many of them in South Paris, where I was living at the time of my job interview and writing for another paper.
“That’s all right. We hear you’re lost in the woods a lot,” the managing editor said. “We want you to cover Acadia National Park.”
I did, for a couple of years until Dolores suddenly was taken seriously ill. I tried to semi-retire to take care of her and take her back and forth to Massachusetts General Hospital.
During my stay at that paper, I walked all the park’s trails. They were too short to hike, the longest being 3.5 miles. When I tried to semi-retire, I received a phone call from the manager of Downeast Transportation.
“You know all the trails in the park,” he said. “You’re going to drive for us for the rest of your life. We need someone who knows the park.”
No application. No interview. Just a job with no nights or weekends required, a fair-paying job that I still hold.
Because a national park was a few miles away.
My son has been offered a job with a motel chain, a major one. He will have a place for his family to live and a company pickup to drive. I think he’ll be paid well.
That motel chain has a fair number of motels and hotels -- near Acadia National Park.
Now, back to Millinocket. I’ve been there about a dozen times. Why? There’s a park. Baxter State Park has trails, mountains, camping, lakes.
No, it’s not a national park. And, if I remember, about 3,000 visitors a year frequent the Millinocket area, not including the scores of hikers on the Appalachian Trail, which, by the way, is a national park.
Acadia National Park averages three million visitors a year. They stay in motels, they camp, the visit the park, they eat lobster in restaurants. They spend lots and lots of money. And they keep coming back.
To the national park.
But mostly to spend money at the businesses near the park.
A recent piece in the Bangor Daily News stated that the park’s presence results in some 3,000 jobs in the area. The “Daily Poll Results” in the same paper on February 28 show that 54% of respondents indicated their jobs pay less than $15.40 per hour. I don’t know what the jobs generated by Acadia’s presence pay on average, and some are seasonal.
But my economic-challenged mind tells me that less than $15.40 per hour for five months a year is more than nothing per hour for the entire year. Some of those workers are employed elsewhere during the winter. Some return to their home countries. Some collect unemployment.
I wonder how Millinocket residents would feel about someone’s potentially generating 3,000 jobs in their region, even seasonal jobs. Oh wait, someone is. I believe her name is Roxanne Quimby.
She has been patiently making her offer now for some time. What if she simply said, “That is my property, private property, no one can use it. No snowmobilers, no hunters or fisherman, no hikers.”
In the years since I’ve been around Acadia, I’ve hiked most of the 150 miles of trail in the park. I cross-country skied a little there, but, hey, the skiing isn’t all that great in Acadia by the sea. Let’s see. I wonder where the skiing is better.
Millinocket maybe? Millinocket has an advantage over Acadia. It is there year-round. When hikers are finished being bitten by blackflies and mosquitoes, they can come back and hunt. Not much space to hunt around Acadia. Hunters bring money to the area where they hunt. They can also cross-country ski or snowmobile, bringing their bucks with them to help keep the Millinocket area green.
And provide jobs.
Acadia has paved roads. Who wants paved roads in the woods? I don’t, but they’re there, and those tourist dollars travel on those paved roads while they get spent on Mount Desert Island.
By the way, paved roads don’t have a mud season.
Some of those paved roads appear to be in a remote forested area. A bit frightening the first time you drive them. They’re not in a remote area, it’s just that the national park planners and builders made them seem to be.
I once asked someone in the Millinocket area chamber of commerce office if they had ever considered operating a shuttle van or bus from Bangor, Ellsworth, or Bar Harbor to the Millinocket area, because tourist dollars would ride those vans or buses. She told me that no one was interested.
On the Island Explorer tourist bus I sometimes drive in summer, I routinely suggest to those tourists that they try north -- as in the Millinocket area. I even suggest they can see the moose in Baxter State Park that are chained to the bottom of Sandy Stream Pond. That moose idea gets them excited.
Now Acadia does bring crowds. No one in the Millinocket area wants crowds. I don’t even want crowds. I wonder what kind of crowds a national park would bring to the Millinocket area. I wonder if they’d bring their money and leave some of it in the region.
None of them who visit Acadia visit mills.
Acadia has no mills. It’s just that it’s a national park. And it has many tourists.
Who bring their money.
I like the Millinocket area. I love Baxter, the trails, Katahdin, The Owl, Daicey Pond, and, yes, those moose of which there are only a handful in Acadia. But I have a nice job here near Acadia. Because it’s a national park.
Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at email@example.com.
Milton M. Gross Copyright 2013