Agreement Would Add 6K Acres to Baxter State Park (ME)

Augusta, ME, 1/25/2006 – Today, Governor John Baldacci, the Baxter Park Authority, and state legislative leaders announced that the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has negotiated an agreement to purchase 6,015 acres bordering 7 miles of the eastern boundary of Baxter State Park, including Katahdin Lake, for the purpose of adding the property to the Park.

After more than three years of discussions with two consecutive landowners, TPL has secured an option to purchase Katahdin Lake from Gardner Land Company of Lincoln, Maine. The total project costs are $14,000,000. This includes land acquisition costs of $13,000,000 and project costs of $1,000,000 for the permanent protection of Katahdin Lake. TPL and DOC are seeking to raise the funds through a private fundraising campaign, the first ever to benefit Baxter State Park. TPL has the option to purchase the property until July 1, 2006. If the fundraising campaign succeeds, TPL will buy Katahdin Lake and give it to the Baxter State Park Authority.

Governor Baldacci said at a State House press conference that acquisition of Katahdin Lake has been of the highest priority since the early 1900’s when Governor Percival Baxter first defined his vision for what would become Baxter State Park. “Today, nearly 37 years after Governor Baxter’s death, the opportunity to complete his vision has finally come our way. With the completion of this project, we will fill out the map that he envisioned for the people of Maine,” said Baldacci. “We’re encouraged by the commitments that we’ve received at the early stages of this historic project.”

Whitney Hatch, TPL’s New England Director, said, “TPL is honored to work with Governor Baldacci, the Department of Conservation and the Baxter Park Authority on this extraordinary project. Our involvement in the Katahdin Lake purchase is a significant endeavor for TPL, and one that demonstrates that after 103 years of effort, perseverance can pay off if you feel strongly about a very special landscape.”

The Baxter State Park Authority has unanimously endorsed the Katahdin Lake acquisition. In anticipation of Baxter State Park ownership, the Authority and DOC are pursuing a management plan in keeping with Governor Baxter’s ideal vision for the Park. Included in the deal is land leased to the Katahdin Lake Wilderness Camps, a privately owned and operated camp dating back to 1885. The camps will remain in operation under a 25 year lease after the land is added to the park. Most of the 6,015 acres surrounding Katahdin Lake have been virtually untouched by human activity.

Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe, Chairman of the Baxter State Park Authority, said, “The 6,015 acres surrounding Katahdin Lake contain unequaled natural beauty which has, by and large, been left untouched and unspoiled. We have been waiting for this opportunity ever since Baxter first defined his vision as including ‘the whole of Mount Katahdin and Katahdin Lake, of itself one of the most beautiful of all Maine lakes.’ This is our first, and most certainly our last chance to complete his vision.”

During his lifetime Governor Baxter worked single-handedly to purchase and donate to the people of Maine the 28 separate parcels totaling more than 200,000 acres that comprise Baxter State Park, often working tirelessly for decades to secure a single parcel. Despite this historic achievement, Baxter was unable to acquire Katahdin Lake – a tract with pristine shoreline, old growth forests, and a view of the Mountain that has inspired generations of artists. The property includes hiking trails and paddling and fishing opportunities.

Patrick McGowan, Commissioner of the Maine DOC, observed that since 1903 these lands have been among the state’s highest conservation priorities and yet have never been available. “This current opportunity will never surface again,” he said. “If we fail, the old growth forest near the lake will likely be harvested and the lake’s shore will be developed to the extent legally permitted. This is the most important conservation project in Maine since Governor Baxter purchased the lands around Mt. Katahdin.”

So far, private donors have made initial commitments of $3.3 million to the Katahdin Lake acquisition, including three gifts of $1 million each. Completion of the Katahdin Lake addition will also require a two-thirds vote of the Maine Legislature, as the transaction with the Gardner Land Company includes the disposition of other state-owned unconsolidated lots as part of the acquisition package for the Katahdin Lake property.

“I am excited to see access to Maine’s natural assets will be increased with the addition of Katahdin Lake to Baxter Park,” said Senate President Beth Edmonds. “It’s so important that we do everything possible to protect our natural heritage and environment, preserving our quality of life with access to Maine’s clean woods and waters. Good government works best when everyone gets on the same page to reach a common goal. This public, private type of partnership for the Katahdin Lake purchase goes a long way to produce results in the tradition of Governor Baxter.”

“This year marks the 75th anniversary of Governor Baxter’s first gift to the people of Maine — a gift that would eventually come to be Baxter State Park,” said House Speaker John Richardson. “I can think of no greater way to honor the man who fought to preserve our quality of life and access to healthy woods and clean waters, and the gift he gave, than to see this effort succeed.”

“This is a special project, near and dear to the hearts of many Mainers,” said Rep. Josh Tardy, Assistant Republican Leader in the Maine House of Representatives. “Completion of this project is important to two sectors of the Maine economy – the forest products industry and tourism – which together mean more than $16 billion annually. I am pleased to be a part of this project.” Tardy is a sponsor of the land-trade bill which will soon go before the Legislature.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit organization dedicated to conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2 million acres of land in 46 states, including more than 330,000 acres in New England and 94,500 acres in the State of Maine. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.

TPL-protected properties in Maine include Tumbledown Mountain, Scarborough Beach, Meserve Farm, Portland’s Eastern Promenade, the ongoing Katahdin Iron Works project in partnership with the AMC and the Maine Department of Conservation, and many more. For more information, visit

The Department of Conservation is a natural resource agency whose bureaus oversee the management and stewardship of some of Maine’s most special places: 17 million acres of forestland, 10.4 million acres of unorganized territory, 49 parks and historic sites and more than 569,000 acres of public reserved land. Created in 1973, the Department of Conservation’s mission is to benefit the citizens, landowners, and users of the state’s natural resources by promoting stewardship and ensuring responsible balanced use of Maine’s land, forest, water, and mineral resources.

The Baxter State Park Authority is the governing body of the Park. The Authority is guided by the provisions of the trust created by Governor Percival P. Baxter. These provisions include ensuring that the Park “shall forever be kept and remain in the Natural Wild State,” to provide recreational opportunities in accordance with trust provisions and to operate and maintain the Park for the use and enjoyment of Maine’s people. According to the donor’s wishes, most of the Park is managed as a sanctuary for beasts and birds and “Katahdin in all its glory forever shall remain the mountain of the People of Maine.”