[March 3, 2021]
Governor Janet Mills has proclaimed March 3, 2021, as Baxter State Park Day in honor of the 90th anniversary of the park’s creation. In her proclamation, Governor Mills urged "all Maine people to recognize and celebrate the determination, foresight, and generosity of Governor Percival Baxter on this, the 90th anniversary of his original enduring gift to the people of the State of Maine." (read proclamation here)
Percival Baxter made his initial gift of 5,960 acres of land on March 3, 1931. This parcel included Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine.
Percival Baxter spent much of his life and his own personal fortune creating Baxter State Park. After his initial gift in 1931, he spent the next three decades donating 27 additional parcels of land to the people of Maine through a series of Deeds of Trust. In these deeds, Baxter specified that the park “shall forever be used for public park and recreational purposes, shall forever be left in the natural wild state, shall forever be kept as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.” The park is still managed as wilderness according to these principles.
For Aaron Megquier, Executive Director of Friends of Baxter State Park, this anniversary is a cause for celebration. “The gift of Baxter State Park to the people of Maine is one of the most generous acts in the history of American land conservation. It’s such a special and iconic place. Without Percival Baxter’s generosity and perseverance, things could have gone very differently.”
Baxter State Park now spans more than 209,644 acres in Piscataquis and Penobscot counties, making it one of the largest state parks in the country, and the largest ever given by an individual.
Park Director Eben Sypitkowski and his staff are responsible for managing the park in accordance with the Deeds of Trust. “Ninety years after Governor Baxter began his project to protect a burnt, logged landscape as a wilderness, the park continues to evolve into the independent, uniquely wild place he imagined,” said Sypitkowski. “Thank you to Governor Mills for recognizing this momentous gift to the people of Maine, which is peerless in scope and vision.”
In addition to his gifts of land, Percival Baxter established an endowment for the park to ensure its financial independence. Consequently, Baxter State Park is completely self-funded and receives no taxpayer dollars. t is also independently managed by the Baxter State Park Authority and is not part of the Maine State Park system managed by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
Judy Camuso, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, currently serves as chair of the Baxter State Park Authority. “Governor Baxter’s vision to create a state park with Katahdin as the crown jewel continues to shine brilliantly, providing a recreational haven and destination not only for Mainers, but visitors from around the world who want to enjoy Maine’s most majestic mountain and beloved state park.”