May 07, 2021

‘No-park army’ rallies in protest Opponents mock North Woods plan

“Take this park and shove it,

To New Hampshire or Vermont,

It’s our state and we love it,

And we know what we don’t want,

We want to hunt, and camp, and fish,

The way we’ve always done,

And it is our undying wish,

To keep the G-man on the run.”

– Matthew Heintz

TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 9 – Ted Danson didn’t show. Neither did Robert Redford, Meryl Streep or Walter Cronkite.

But nearly 300 people from all over the state gathered at the Big Moose Inn – on Millinocket Lake inside the proposed Maine Woods National Park – Saturday to sing the protest songs of Matthew Heintz, “the North Woods Balladeer,” drink a little Moxie, and rally against federal land ownership.

A group called RESTORE: The North Woods has been advocating a 3.2 million acre national park in northwest Maine for nearly a decade. In May, however, RESTORE announced the creation of a new group called Americans for a Maine Woods National Park.

A list of 110 members of the new group includes prominent environmentalists, writers and businesspeople from all over the nation, as well as die-hard Maine supporters. But it was the sampling of Hollywood stars that drew the most fire from those who attended Saturday’s protest, called “The Maine Woods Film Festival: Take One,” in their honor.

“It’s mostly Hollywood celebrities who have never been to Maine, certainly not to this part of Maine,” said Gene Conlogue, Millinocket town manager, who served as emcee Saturday. “They’re solutions looking for problems.”

Heintz performed a new song, which took stabs at nine well-known members of Americans for a Maine Woods National Park, including Cronkite, Redford, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Harry Belafonte, Harrison Ford, former University of Maine basketball star Cindy Blodgett, former Sierra Club head David Brower, RESTORE founder Jym St. Pierre and millionaire businesswoman Roxanne Quimby.

A little later, Conlogue read off a long list of celebrities who he said had been invited to the event, but no big black limousines or private jets had arrived.

“I would like to think that these people who would take my livelihood away would at least come meet me face-to-face,” Conlogue said.

Just then, the faces of several celebrities appeared in the inn’s windows, and volunteers holding photos in front of their faces took the microphone to speak about the park.

“I have nothing to say about the North Woods because I’ve never been here,” said Sen. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, the voice behind a picture of Robert Redford.

At times, the satire got personal as when Conlogue said RESTORE leader Jym St. Pierre was afraid to attend, and that he was represented by a coyote pelt in the corner.

“Poor Jymmy got into a terrible fracas with a black bear and they skun him,” Conlogue said.

The largely conservative crowd, with a big contingency of property rights advocates and National Rifle Association members, cheered every joke depicting RESTORE as a group of stuck-up Bostonian buffoons, however.

“This is a Moxie and pretzel affair, as opposed to a wine and cheese party,” Conlogue joked.

The gathering had a more serious bent, however, said Mary Adams, the well-known conservative activist who helped plan the event.

Adams, who was a major force behind the overthrow of the state’s uniform property tax in the late 1970s, worked with volunteers to gather names and contact information from hundreds of attendees – “a little no-park army” that can be called into action in times of need, she said.

People wearing “Don’t Fence Me In” T-shirts gave reasons for their passionate opposition to a national park.

Paper mill and forest workers fear that a park in the heart of the Maine woods would destroy their livelihood. Southern Maine residents who have lost access to nearby woods and waters want to save their right to hunt and snowmobile. Millinocket residents fear for the future of their battered community.

Jim Busque of the Millinocket Fin and Feather Club has a sporting camp, and said he just wants to pass his way of life on to his young children.

Big Moose Inn owner Laurie Cormier of Kingman agreed.

“This is Maine people fighting for what Maine people want,” she said.

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