August 25, 2017

Katahdin Region business owner glad national monument is here to stay

Courtesy / Three Rivers Whitewater
Courtesy / Three Rivers Whitewater
Whitewater rafting tourists enjoy a ride through swirling rapids, with their guide, Joe Christopher, owner of Three Rivers Whitewater and several related outdoor recreation businesses in the Katahdin Region, flashing a victory sign. Christopher told Mainebiz today he's relieved that the national monument will be preserved, according to press reports about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's recommendations delivered Thursday to President Trump.

Business owners in the Katahdin Region are relieved that the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument will be preserved, although details of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's report and recommendations to President Trump remain unknown today.

"There's been a lot of uncertainty and uneasiness for the businesspeople of this area," Joe Christopher, owner of Three Rivers Whitewater and several related outdoor recreation businesses, told Mainebiz in a telephone interview Friday morning. "We're thrilled about the decision to keep it a national monument. … It's a gift that rivals Gov. Baxter's gift [resulting in the 200,000 acre Baxter State Park, which includes Mount Katahdin]. It's incredibly beautiful and it's been the only glimmer of hope this region has had in a long, long time."

Christopher said he's owned Three Rivers Whitewater for 21 years, offering rafting adventures in the region on the Penobscot, Kennebec and Dead rivers. He also owns a skydiving business as well as the Penobscot River Outpost, located just outside Millinocket, which was built in 2005 and features lodging that includes yurts, summer camps, bunk houses and tent camping and the Boatman's Bar and Grill.

Christopher said there's definitely been an uptick in inquiries from tourists since Katahdin Woods and Waters was named a national monument last August by President Obama. He's also seen evidence that it's spurring new real estate investments in the region.

He's now eager to see the planning process proceed without any further uncertainty regarding the long-term management of the 87,500-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument by the National Park Service.

"It's a massive asset being part of the National Park Service," he said. "Acadia National Park is the No. 1 tourist destination in Maine. I think there's opportunities for this region to market Katahdin Woods and Waters in conjunction with Acadia and bring more of those visitors inland to spend an extra day or two of time here in Maine."

Zinke's summary short on details

Zinke delivered a draft report to the president on Thursday that included his findings and recommendations for Katahdin Woods and Waters and 26 other national monuments on national monuments he evaluated as a result of Trump's April 26 executive order calling for a review of national monuments created since 1996. A two-page summary of that report, which is heavy on process and short on details, can be read here.

The Bangor Daily News reported that unnamed sources briefed by Zinke said that his report advises Trump to keep the monument's boundaries intact, while making "some changes on allowable uses." One of the sources said the changes could include permitting demonstrations of historic logging practices.

The Washington Post reported that a White House official confirmed that President Trump had received the full report but would not say when it would be released or when the president would act on Zinke's recommendations.

Jym St. Pierre, Maine director of RESTORE: The North Woods, in a statement sent to Mainebiz, said he was cautiously optimistic about the future of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

"We are waiting to see the full report, but it looks like it will not propose troubling changes to the national monument," he said. "Our organization has been involved in the fate of the Katahdin region for 25 years. We have spent a lot of time in the area. In fact, I was guiding in the Katahdin national monument just yesterday. I met people from Millinocket who used to be skeptical as well as others from out-of-state who were anxious to see the area. They all had one thing in common. They love the new national monument."

Three Rivers Whitewater's Joe Christopher said he hoped that both Trump and Gov. Paul LePage will now allow the region to move full speed ahead with planning on optimizing the economic benefits of having the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument as part of the National Park Service.

"Hopefully, this is the last of the controversy," he said.


NRCM report on Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument


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