A short distance off the southwestern shoreline of Katahdin Lake (Delorme, Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, Map 51, C-2) there is a large island. In September of 2006, I stood on the sandy beach of Katahdin Lake Camps looking out toward the island — I guessed it might be a 300 yard swim.
It was an unseasonably warm early-fall afternoon, but the lake lies at an elevation of 1,000 feet and the water was better-suited for chilling beer than swimming. I hesitated before diving in.
After the shock of the initial plunge, the familiar rhythm took over and I warmed to the work despite the cold water. The lake was flat calm and my wake was the only disturbance in the mirrored reflection of Mt. Katahdin which loomed immediately to the west.
The near-silence engulfed me as I waded from the water and rested on some sun-drenched rocks near the tip of the island.
It was impossible to sit on the edge of this lake and imagine that it would be a better placewith a motorboat rounding the far end of the island or with an ATV grinding along the shoreline trail. The political battle that was raging throughout the state in 2006 — as to whether Katahdin Lake should be, or ever could be, a part of the Baxter State Park wilderness – seemed far away and ridiculous there.
Of course, Katahdin Lake officially became a part of Baxter State Park a few months after my swim. No road will ever access the lake; no outboard motor will ever break the silence of a September afternoon. Snowmobiles will never crisscross the winter ice.
And yet somehow the State of Maine has survived.
It turns out that an additional 4,000 acres of protected silence and fresh air didn’t really change anything for the worse. None of the doomsday scenarios purported by opponents came to pass. Hunters still hunted in the north woods– I know because I am one of them. Snowmobiles still went 100 mph along groomed trails outside the park. Woodsmen found sufficient supplies of pulp and timber in other places.
The sky did not fall — the world did not come crashing down.
It’s worth thinking about this as the ongoing debate over the proposed national park darkens the horizon. If the proposed national park somehow magically became a reality tomorrow — 75,000 acres would be set aside for protection. Depending on which numbers we use — there are over 3.5 million acres in the north woods — defined as western Aroostook and northern Somerset, Penobscot, and Piscataquis counties.
The sky will not fall — the world will not come crashing down.