September 15, 2013

Roxanne Quimby's son offers new hope for national park plan

Lucas St. Clair, a fisherman and hunter, is working to gain the trust of people in the Katahdin region and to overcome the hostility that his mother engendered.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

MOUNT CHASE - The man in jeans, a plaid shirt and flip-flops who strolled onto the lawn Wednesday at Shin Pond Village looked like a drift-boat guide or a long-distance hiker. Not too long ago, he was.

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Lucas St. Clair, a Maine native who has been sitting down with locals, has many of them starting to listen.

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Lucas St. Clair is president of the board of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the company his mother founded.

Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below


The National Park Service has 401 units that include national parks, wild and scenic rivers, seashores, preserves and the sites of monuments. At 61 of those units, hunting is allowed, according to the service. Here is a sample of some of the national park sites that allow hunting:

• Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

A famous birding destination that is best known as the home of wild ponies. The island is located off Maryland’s eastern shore in the Atlantic Ocean and the park covers 41,000 acres, about half of the island. It was created in 1965.

• Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

The park was created in 1975. Its 24-mile-long beach is the longest undeveloped beach on Florida’s eastern seaboard. Located on a barrier island, the park is home to more than 300 bird species and threatened animals.

• Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

The popular and busy East Coast beach that is known for its ecologically fragile land also is one of the National Park Service units to allow hunting. Created in 1961 by President John Kennedy, it comprises 43,600 acres.

• City of Rocks National Reserve, Idaho

The national reserve lies in south-central Idaho, near the border with Utah and is famous for its rock climbing. The national reserve was created in 1988 but was co-managed by the state of Idaho and the park service. It is 14,400 acres and continues to be managed by the service and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

• Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Denali encompasses 6 million acres of wild land and North America’s tallest peak, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. It was established in 1980. The original wildlands there constitute the world’s first national park established to conserve wildlife, according to the service in 1917.

• Great Egg Harbor River, New Jersey

This wild river is fed by 17 tributaries as the 129-mile river system runs to the Atlantic Ocean and Great Egg Harbor. Established in 1992, it resides within the Pinelands National Reserve, but is unusual in that local jurisdictions are administered here. The National Park Service considers it one of the top places in North America for birding.

Source: National Park Service

But today Lucas St. Clair is president of the board of Elliotsville Plantation Inc., the company Roxanne Quimby formed to manage the 100,000 acres of land she owns in northern Maine.

Quimby wants to create a national park on the land, a vision that has stirred bitter opposition among many residents, who fear they will lose the opportunity to hunt, snowmobile, trap and pursue other traditional outdoor activities if the land comes under federal control.

Quimby herself has been vilified by her critics, especially after testy meetings with residents in the Millinocket area where she came across, according to some participants, as arrogant and insensitive.

St. Clair, 35, is Quimby's son. He faces the daunting task of overcoming the hostility and distrust engendered by his mother and her ideas. St. Clair brings good credentials to the job: He's a fisherman and a hunter who was raised in the Guilford area.

He earned widespread praise among sportsmen last week when he announced that the company would open 40,000 acres of its land near the East Branch of the Penobscot River and in the Greenville and Brownville Junction areas to hunting and ATV riding.

St. Clair said the land could someday become part of a national recreation area, a site that would be managed by the National Park Service but still open to hunting and other activities.

St. Clair says he recognizes the challenge he faces in northern Maine, but he believes that with hard work, honesty and determined outreach to local residents, the park will someday come to be.

"Absolutely, yeah. We are going to do everything we can to make it happen, and I believe it will, because it's a great idea," he said. "It's a great way to diversify the economy and help things get going again for a region that has struggled a bit."

Quimby did not respond to requests for an interview relayed through St. Clair and the spokesman for Elliotsville Plantation, David Farmer. St. Clair said a decision has been made to keep Quimby out of the spotlight so she doesn't become a lightning rod for more criticism.

"We feel it would be a setback," he said. "She has removed herself from it. We don't want the focus on what she has said publicly at a town hall or meeting. We're trying to move past that."

While many seem to regard Quimby as a pariah, St. Clair, a tall, bearded Seth Wescott-look-alike, is winning favor among the people of the Katahdin area and beginning to gain their trust.

He did it, locals say, by giving back to them, and keeping his word.

After moving his young family from Seattle to Portland last November, St. Clair has spent his time between Millinocket, Stacyville and Shin Pond meeting with people at their homes.

When he opened up the land to hunting and ATV riding last week, he added that he's researching with his lawyers a deeded land agreement to permit snowmobiling.

"With Lucas we're seeing a willingness to come here, listen and, if we're upset, to work with us," said Peter Ellis, owner of the Ellis Family Market in Patten. "I'm cautiously optimistic. He followed through on one thing he promised."

St. Clair said he is moving fast to create a sensible plan with broad appeal, but he recognizes that much work needs to be done locally before pursuing congressional support for a new park. The Maine delegation has not supported Quimby's plan -- largely because of the fierce local opposition.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Roxanne Quimby

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The Seboeis River runs through land owned by Elliotsville Plantation Inc. in northern Maine. Many residents have opposed a plan to create a national park, fearing they will lose the right to pursue traditional activities on the land if it comes under federal control.

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Terry Hill owns Shin Pond Village campground in Mount Chase with her husband, Craig. The couple appreciated being asked for their input.

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Seaplanes rest on Lower Shin Pond in Mount Chase, where the local economy depends on snowmobiling and hunting.

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Christina Shipps, who owns Mountain Glory Farm in Patten, says she is “cautiously optimistic” about St. Clair’s efforts.

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