STACYVILLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – The National Park Service held their first in a series of ‘listening sessions’ Thursday night.
This just three weeks after the formal declaration of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
Nearly 200 people came out to share their concerns at the Katahdin Middle and High School.
While some left feeling their voices went unheard, others have come to support the monuments future.
"I have changed my mind on the monument,” Tom Guiggey said.
Guiggey said he’s lived in the region his entire life and watched as the forest product industry faded and people lost their livelihood.
"I only really have one main concern. It's the monument size what it's going to be now or is there the possibility that the monument expands to the point where northern Maine cannot handle it."
He said he also hopes the some aspect of forest products industry can coexist with the monument, but he was only one of many voices.
"The resources can't handle it,” Bill Finny said in a small group during the event’s breakout session.
Some are still worried about the influx of people to the region and rules concerning ATVs as well as hunting and fishing.
The National Park service said they're looking to form an agreement with the Maine Warden Service to enforce those rules.
Others still fear the possibility of a National Park and voiced approval for a National Forest instead. Either would need congressional approval.
Small groups were able to share ideas focused on prescribed questions, writing them on large sheets of paper. Still, there was often debate and learning together about the history of the region.
Those groups were even tasked with marking places that were special to them with stickers on a map.
"Things that were painful perhaps for somebody that had liked it the way it was, and didn't like the way Roxanne did some of the things she did at the start, could still see you know that it is special,” Town Manager of Patten Raymond Foss said.
Foss was surprised by the unique format and said it worked well.
At the end of the event, the walls of the gymnasium were plastered with the comments and concerns—a sign of not just the thoughts but the passion of the people in the region.
They will be taken and put into a report to be used for the official plan for the monument.
"We put all the pieces together, we start to come down to ‘Okay what are the common items?’, and we come back to the public again. This is not a one-shot deal,” Tim Hudson said.
Hudson says they hope to complete that plan in just three years.
"I hope this area actually comes back to life,” Guiggey said.
They National Park Service is now looking forward to three more sessions in the coming weeks.
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