Friends of Bigelow, the group that spearheaded the 1970s’ citizens’ initiative campaign to create the 36,000-acre Bigelow Preserve on the Bigelow Mountain Range, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the successful statewide vote with a public potluck supper at 6 p.m., Sunday, June 5, at the Carrabassett Valley Public Library and Community Center.
Earlier in the day, group members will duplicate the 1974 climb to Bigelow’s summit to plant a “Save Bigelow” flag “to claim the mountain for the people of Maine.” That climb, which received national publicity, kicked off the initiative effort.
A 12-mile-long massif in northwestern Maine with six major peaks, Bigelow is one of the gems of the Appalachian Trail. At the time of the June 8, 1976 vote, the Massachusetts-based Flagstaff Corporation planned to develop Bigelow into a four-season resort with a giant downhill ski area dubbed “the Aspen of the East,” a jetport, and a marina on adjacent Flagstaff Lake. A legislator of the era described it as “a bunny club for Boston billionaires.”
This year Friends of Bigelow will plant a flag on 4,145-foot West Peak to “reclaim” the mountain for Maine people to remind officials and the public of the Preserve’s special status—created by Maine citizens despite opposition by Gov. James Longley, the legislature, and much of the state’s business community.
State government has increasingly treated the preserve as just another part of the public-lands network, which is under threat from excessive cutting of timber pushed by the LePage administration. The state also hasn’t acquired the full 40,000 acres prescribed by the Preserve law and, for logging, has widened a preserve road contrary to the spirit of the law.
The Bigelow Preserve Act requires the range to be “retained in its natural state for the use and enjoyment of the public,” including “hiking, fishing, and hunting.” Timber harvesting must be regulated “consistent with the area’s scenic beauty and natural features.”
The 10-mile hike, open to the public, will begin at 8 a.m. sharp at the Firewarden’s Trail trailhead on the Stratton Brook Road in Carrabassett Valley. It’s expected to take eight hours. At least two Friends of Bigelow on the February, 1974 climb, Lance Tapley—who led the 1970s’ Save Bigelow campaign—and his wife Peggy Tapley, plan to climb this year.
At the supper, the group’s officers and a representative of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, which lent important support to the 1970s’ campaign, will lead a discussion on preserve issues.
Bigelow is unique among state lands and possibly in the United States as a large, park-like area established by people’s initiative in a statewide vote. Forty-five thousand registered voters signed a petition, gathered by 550 volunteers, to put the range’s future on the ballot.
Those joining the hike should email email@example.com or call 207-626-3298. Those attending the potluck supper should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the same number. The Carrabassett Valley Library and Community Center is off Route 27 near the Sugarloaf ski area access road.
Source: Friends of Bigelow.