Brief History of Our Park
- Governor Percival Baxter
Percival P. Baxter was governor of Maine during the years of 1921-1924. He enjoyed fishing and vacationing in the Maine woods throughout childhood and his affection for the land and Maine’s wildlife were instrumental in his creation of a park for people of the State of Maine. He began to fulfill his dream of a park in the year 1930, with the purchase of almost 6,000 acres of land, including Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak. In 1931, Baxter formally donated the parcel to the State of Maine with the condition that it be kept forever wild. Over the years, Governor Baxter purchased additional lands and pieced his park together, transaction by transaction. He made his final purchase in 1962. Since then,additional purchases and land gifts have increased the Park's total size to 209,644 acres. About 75% of the Park (156,874 acres) is managed as a wildlife sanctuary. In the northwest corner of the Park 29,537 acres (about 14% of the Park) was designated by Governor Baxter to be managed as the Scientific Forest Management Area and is currently a Forest Stewardship Certified showplace for sound forestry. In addition, about 25% of the Park (52,628 acres) is open to hunting and trapping with the exception that Moose hunting is prohibited in the Park.
Man is born to die,
His works are short-lived.
But Katahdin in all its glory,
Forever shall remain
The People of Maine.
Demonstrating not only enormous generosity, but admirable foresight, Baxter left a trust of nearly 7 million dollars to ensure that Park managers would have sufficient funds to maintain the Park without ever having to compete for Maine taxpayers’ dollars from the general fund account. He also stipulated that the sole governing authority regarding the Park and management would be a group of 3 public officials namely: the Commissioner of Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Director of the Maine State Forest Service and the Attorney General. The individuals holding these three positions in Maine comprise the Baxter State Park Authority and as such are responsible for protecting the natural resources and upholding the conditions set forth in Governor Baxter’s Deeds of Trust. Park managers also work closely with the BSP Advisory, a committee of 15 citizens dedicated to examining issues and supporting the stewardship of the Authority.
There are over 40 peaks and ridges besides Katahdin in the Park. The trail system features over 215 miles of trails popular with hikers, mountain climbers and naturalists. Baxter State Park operates eight (8) roadside campgrounds and two (2) backcountry campgrounds. There are also numerous individual backcountry sites for backpackers.
The Park is now a premier year-round destination for outdoor enthusiasts. A year-round staff of 22 swells to about 61 in the summer, including office administration and reservation personnel, field and law enforcement rangers and resource specialists. Roughly 60,000 people visit the park in the summer months. Some stay for 10 nights, some visit only for one day. As visitation increases and the world becomes more complex, Park managers face new challenges daily that threaten to undermine the magnificent gift that Baxter left for all generations of Maine citizens to cherish. He left us these words to emphasize the humble attitude he felt would be the key to saving some wilderness and forest for those coming after us.