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A Brief History of Friends of Baxter State Park:

Wassataquoik-Stream,-Metcaf-Pool
Wassataquoik-Stream,-Metcaf-Pool

What began as a reaction to threats to the Park’s wilderness quality and to the hope of a new acquisition that included Katahdin Lake, became a community of passionate supporters of the Park armed with valuable historic documentation and a vision for the future.

During the 1990s a number of controversies in the Katahdin region alerted a small group of wilderness advocates to potential threats to the wilderness character of Baxter State Park (BSP). The most significant such instance that ultimately led to the creation of a friends’ group was the Baxter State Park Authority’s 1998 decision to permit hunting on the newly acquired West Branch Lands. In spite of three recommendations to the contrary by a special subcommittee appointed by the Authority’s own Advisory Committee, Park Director Buzz Caverly, and a memorandum from the Attorney General’s office, the Authority voted, by a 2-1 margin, to permit hunting in the newly acquired parcel in T2 R10.

In response to that decision,John W. Neff observed that there was a need for a well-articulated philosophy of sanctuary consistent with Baxter’s own words and deeds. He went on to state in a letter to BSP Director Caverly: "I know that there will need to be some forum in the near future where this basic and fundamental philosophy needs to be hammered out so a specific decision will not be held hostage by any small group that wants to have its way and develops political clout to make it happen."

In 1999 John Loyd and Phyllis Austin began to round up people with similar concerns and love for the Park, for the purpose of accomplishing more effective advocacy, education, and support for this wilderness philosophy. Friends of Baxter State Park (FBSP) was founded in 2000, holding its first Annual Meeting in April 2001.

From its inception, Friends of Baxter State Park wanted to be thoroughly acquainted with the materials regarding Percival Baxter’s vision for a park at Katahdin so that the organization could weigh in intelligently on the issues of the day and on the Park’s future over the long term. The creation of the publication of the four-volume Percival P. Baxter’s Vision for Baxter State Park: An Annotated Compilation of Original Sources in 2005 -- which assembled for the first time in one source the Deeds of Trust, judicial and attorneys general opinions, and the voluminous speeches and correspondence associated with the Park’s creation and management -- did precisely that. This document, created and annotated by Howard Whitcomb with the support of Friends members enabled Friends of Baxter State Park to speak authoritatively as to Percival Baxter’s long-standing desire to acquire the northwest quadrant of T3 R8 where Katahdin Lake is located, when that parcel was being considered for inclusion in the Park. FBSP was well represented throughout the protracted legislative deliberations over the proposed acquisition in 2006, including speaking at the public hearing before the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

Members of Friends also participated in an effective fundraising campaign to acquire the Katahdin Lake lands, with the Friends' Board of Directors personally contributing in excess of $10,000. In December 2006, with the unanimous endorsement of the Baxter State Park Authority, 4,000 acres at Katahdin Lake were transferred to Baxter State Park to be managed as sanctuary. Friends of Baxter State Park rightfully received widespread praise for its signal role in helping to insure the permanent conservation of the Katahdin Lake lands.

In 2008 Howard Whitcomb published under the auspices of Friends, Governor Baxter’s Magnificent Obsession: A Documentary History of Baxter State Park, 1931-2006 which included a major new essay on Baxter’s vision and brought the story of the Park’s creation up to date, most importantly the addition of the Katahdin Lake parcel in 2006.

As the activities on this web-site demonstrate, Friends of Baxter State Park has continued to be dedicated to its original mission of upholding the wilderness philosophy of Percival Baxter’s vision and has expanded its programs and capacity to actively preserve and protect the Park and foster a passion for wilderness in future generations.

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Full Chronology of Activities:

2010

Mattagamon Lake View from Trout Pond

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000