New visitor center to tell Katahdin Woods’ story through Native American eyes

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:52 PM EDT
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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A privately funded visitor center is emerging from the wilderness at the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine that will tell the story of the region through the eyes of Native Americans.

The striking building is already under construction and will formally open to the public next spring. It bears the name “Tekαkαpimək” from the Penobscot Indian language, which translates to “as far as one can see.”

“It’s going to be pretty incredible. It’s an amazing building. And it’ll be focused telling the history of this place through the Wabanaki world view,” said Lucas St. Clair, whose family donated the land for the monument.

Friends of Katahdin Woods & Waters formally unveiled on Tuesday a capital campaign called “A Monumental Welcome” to raise the final $12.5 million of the $35 million needed for the welcome center and several other projects. It’s being funded by donations from individuals, foundations and corporations, officials said.

The welcome center is a key step for accessibility for the 87,500-acre property east of Baxter State Park, and will include historical exhibits and restrooms.

Managed by the National Park Service, Katahdin Woods and Waters was the brainchild of St. Clair’s mother, Roxanne Quimby, who founded Burt’s Bees and made tens of millions of dollars when she sold it. It includes a 17-mile loop road with stunning views of Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine, and trails for hiking, mountain biking and snowmobiling, along with paddling on the Penobscot River’s East Branch.

The land’s deeds allow construction of a visitor contact station on Lookout Mountain, and the foundation partnered with the Wabanaki tribes in Maine. Those include the Penobscots whose ancestral homeland includes the property, along with the Maliseet, Mi’kmaq and Passamaquoddy tribes. The Wabanaki and their ancestors have been in what’s now Maine for thousands of years.

The exhibits created by Wabanaki artists and teachers will provide “a profound welcome” to visitors of the monument, St. Clair said.

The Quimby family and foundations have donated $10 million to the capital campaign, which will fund projects beyond the visitor center. About $2.7 million will be used for National Park Service priority projects and $1 million will be used for a fund for Wabanaki projects as defined by the Wabanaki Advisory Board.