OLD TOWN – Roxanne Quimby agreed to allow continued public access to 23,000 acres she owns near Katahdin Lake after a 21/2-hour meeting Friday that raised hope for eventual peace among warring sportsmen, environmentalists and loggers.
As part of the agreement, hunting, ATV riding, snowmobiling and other activities allowed on the land before the wealthy conservationist’s $10 million purchase last month will continue until Sept. 1, 2007. The land is in Township 3, Range 8 and Township 2, Range 8 east of Baxter State Park.
The agreement temporarily alleviates sportsmen and logger concerns that the purchase deprived them of access to land they have used for decades and opens the door to further talks.
It also shows Quimby’s willingness to address critics who have claimed that her endeavors threaten the Katahdin region’s way of life, participants said.
“The important thing is that we’re going to keep talking,” said Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association. “I think we will continue to talk and perhaps find common ground.”
Quimby was not available for comment after the meeting. A seasonal resident of Winter Harbor, she is already unpopular with many rural Mainers because of her long-standing opposition to hunting and mechanized recreation on the 90,000 acres she owns in northern Maine. She has been a proponent of creating a national park near Baxter State Park.
Katahdin region officials have said that continued purchases such as Quimby’s decrease room for economic growth, forestry industry and tourist dollars in a rural area already suffering from heavy unemployment and poverty.
For two of those officials, Millinocket Town Manager Eugene Conlogue and Town Councilor Wallace Paul, the meeting was their first with Quimby.
“It was a very cordial introductory meeting,” Paul said Friday. “She was described to me in the past as a very focused person. I agree with that.
“There was a lot of thoughtful discussion and ideas. I think all parties left happy and intrigued,” Paul added. “We’re all interested in where this can go.”
Conlogue called Friday’s agreement “a good start on other issues.”
Conlogue has pressed for eliminating state Tree Growth Tax Law breaks for purchases such as Quimby’s, as the protection exists to help preserve woods industry use of land.
Quimby’s agreement negated the need for state officials to build a new 4,000-foot-long road connecting about 1,750 acres owned by H.C. Haynes-Crawford to about 10,000 acres of WT Gardner & Sons land, Meyers said. The road would have been needed to bypass Quimby’s recent purchase had she banned sportsmen and loggers from her land.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Chandler Woodcock agreed the road is unnecessary.
He called for an end to plans to build the road, which has an estimated cost of about $30,000, and for a re-examination of the proposed Katahdin Lake deal. Assembled last spring, the deal was designed to attach about 4,000 acres surrounding Katahdin Lake to Baxter State Park. Another 2,000 acres, where hunting and snowmobiling will be allowed, will be managed by the Maine Department of Conservation.
Sportsmen had expressed concerns that the Katahdin Lake deal and Quimby’s $10 million purchase would choke off access to good land around those parcels. That’s why Gov. John Baldacci announced plans early last month to build the road.
But Quimby’s meeting, which Meyers described as a continuation of her efforts to address stakeholders’ concerns, opens the door for greater solutions, Woodcock said.
“It is significant that she is allowing this to happen,” Woodcock said Friday. “I applaud her for taking this initiative.”
Quimby is the co-founder of Burt’s Bees, a company that produces wax-based products including cosmetics, natural remedies and personal care items. She sold 80 percent of the company for an undisclosed sum in 2003.