That won’t be easy. Quimby has built a reputation for not always backing up what she says. When opposition to her national park idea got particularly heated in 2005, she told Down East magazine she was dropping the idea. She didn’t. Over the years, she’s put up gates to limit access to her property, only to take them down when they generated public anger. She bought two historic buildings in Portland with the aim of creating artist colonies, but even before renovations were completed, she abandoned the idea — along with the gutted buildings. She banned hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling on her land, causing economic hardship in an area dependent on those forms of outdoor recreation. At St. Clair’s urging, she’s gradually been easing up on those restrictions.
Last week, Quimby’s company announced it was opening 40,000 acres to hunters, snowmobiles, and ATVers. St. Clair painted the change in policy as a model for the type of land use that would be allowed if a national park ever became a reality. But area residents, apparently mindful of Quimby’s tendency to abruptly shift gears, were able to curb their enthusiasm. “I don’t see it as a game-changer,” one snowmobile advocate told the Portland Press Herald. If the park were approved, said a guide, “everything is subject to change.”
The folks around Millinocket may be, as Quimby once noted, old, fat, doped up, and sponges on society, but they’re still capable of learning from experience. They’ve seen her switch directions too many times to believe this latest change is anything more than a ploy designed to ease opposition to the park. It will take more than her son’s facility with the media to convince them otherwise.
For starters, Quimby would have to be named the state’s third-worst politician.
Nominations for the bottom 10 are open. Email them to me firstname.lastname@example.org.