North Woods National Park: I have a confession to make: “It’s all my fault.”


As debate rages endlessly in northern Maine about proposals for a North Woods National Park, I have a confession to make:  It’s all my fault.

I came to Maine in 1983, after finishing law school in Virginia, and briefly worked as an associate for a solo practitioner in Guilford, Piscataquis County.  I left that position less than a year later, to serve a three year tour in the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps.  Following my JAG Corps initial training, I was assigned to an office (U.S. Army Legal Services Agency) in Falls Church Virginia, where I briefed and argued criminal appeals cases in the military courts.

A number of my law school classmates had also found jobs in the northern Virginia / D.C. area, including a close friend, Wade Ballou.  Wade and I had a particular connection, because Wade was from Roanoke Virginia, and I had obtained my undergraduate degree from Roanoke College, in nearby Salem Virginia.  Wade worked in the Office of Legislative Counsel on Capitol Hill, writing bills for members of congress.  Wade’s boss had drafted the 1954 federal Internal Revenue Code, which in my book made him one of the most powerful people ever to walk the face of the earth.

A former eagle scout, Wade had never been to Maine, so in the fall of 1985 I arranged a trip to Piscataquis County for some hiking, whitewater rafting, and so on.  Wade’s wife was in eastern Europe “buying publications” for her CIA employer (that’s another story), so she did not accompany us.

During the trip, I reconnected with some local residents I had met in 1983.  I had been a member of the Guilford Kiwanis, and was asked by one of the members of that organization to be the speaker at a morning breakfast Kiwanis meeting.  I delegated the job to Wade, to talk about his work in Legislative Counsel’s office.

Wade gave a talk on the process of writing and enacting legislation in Congress.  To add interest to the presentation, he used a hypothetical bill titled “An Act to Turn Piscataquis County into a National Park”.  This was seven years before RESTORE: The North Woods existed (RESTORE was organized in 1992), and prior to any of the national park proposals that are circulating today.

At the time, Roxanne Quimby and Burt’s Bees were located in a former bowling alley building in downtown Guilford Maine.  Burt’s Bees had begun as a partnership between Roxanne Quimby and Burt Schavitz in 1984.  Ms. Quimby is now best known in Maine for her advocacy of various north woods national park proposals.  Memory being what it is I cannot say for sure that Ms. Quimby was a member of the Guilford Kiwanis and attended the breakfast meeting at which Wade gave his talk.  But with her always-strong business sense, it seems likely.

Moreover, I have a vague recollection that there was one Kiwanis member who seemed particularly interested in Wade’s talk, and asked him a great many questions.

Depending on your perspective, the proposed North Woods National Park is either the economic savior of a distressed and impoverished region, or represents the surrender of Maine’s traditional values and economic base to the tyranny of federal land ownership.  For my own part, I later helped to organize and wrote the charter for the Maine Woods Coalition, incorporated in 2001 specifically to oppose creation of a national park in northern Maine.  (See link below.)  Greenville’s town manager John Simko and former Millinocket town manager Gene Conlogue were leaders in that effort.

But I am chagrinned to think, and here publicly confess for the first time, that the entire decades-long controversy may well be the result of a seed inadvertently planted by two guys here on vacation, from away.


Some related links:

Maine Woods Coalition:,d.cWw

RESTORE:  The North Woods

NRCM:  A New National Park and Recreation Area in Northern Maine