Poll shows strong support for park study (Dec. 7, 2011)

An October 2011 poll by the independent polling firm Critical Insights shows 60 percent of Maine residents support the Friends of the Maine Woods’ call to study the economic benefits of the proposed Maine Woods National Park.

The proposal by local philanthopist Roxanne Quimby would create a national park in Maine’s north woods using a 70,000-acre gift of land plus a $40 million endowment for its continued maintenance and upkeep. The park would protect irreplaceable biological resources in the East Branch of the Penobscot River and potentially create hundreds of needed jobs.

The poll makes clear the call for a study enjoys broad support from Mainers, with 88 percent of poll respondents having lived in Maine 10 years or more. Friends of the Maine Woods, which continues to lead the effort to collect petitions requesting a study, has forwarded the poll results to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar has stressed the importance of tourism, leisure and outdoor recreation, which he said makes up the fifth largest part of the American economy. Speaking in Bar Harbor in August, Salazar said Acadia National Park is “directly responsible for more than 3,100 jobs here in Maine” — an economic boost Friends says can be closely duplicated in northern Maine.

Studies indicate Acadia National Park brings over $166 million per year to Maine’s midcoast and supports more than 3,300 private sector jobs. Nationwide, every dollar invested in national parks generates at least $4 in economic value. Overall, America’s national parks create $13.3 billion in local economic activity and support 267,000 private sector jobs.

“Polling data from every corner of our state makes clear that, in a new economy, a solid majority of Maine residents want to explore new options,” said Cynthia Dill, founder and president of the Friends of the Maine Woods board of directors. “A study of a national park in the north woods would be a cost-free way for the state to investigate a viable way to create jobs and economic diversity in an area of our great state that needs it.”

Groups urging U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to conduct a study of the proposal include the Millinocket Downtown Revitalization Committee, the Town of Medway, Sierra Club, NRCM, Environment Maine, the National Park Citizens Committee, the Katahdin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Katahdin Area Rotary Club, RESTORE the North Woods and Friends of Baxter State Park.

To view the Critical Insights polling data, open this link and go to page 42: http://www.criticalinsights.com/assets/CriticalInsightsTrackingSurveyFall2011.pdf

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