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State mulling new camping options at Eagle Lake, Deboullie

ASHLAND, Maine — The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands is hosting a public meeting in Ashland Wednesday to gather input on a proposal to add and expand campsites at public reserve lands around Eagle Lake and Deboullie Mountain.

The Bureau of Parks and Lands, a part of the state Department of Conservation, Agriculture and Forestry, is considering the camping additions under the management plan for the Northern Aroostook Regional Public Reserve Lands.

The agency is holding a hearing on the proposal at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 9, at the Bureau of Parks and Lands’ office at 45 Radar Road in Ashland. Comments by writing will be accepted until May 23, and can be sent to the Bureau of Parks and Lands

The proposal calls for adding one or more campsites to accommodate vehicle-drawn trailer campers within the 21,871-acre Deboullie lands. Currently, Deboullie is home to 29 primitive campsites with privies, of which 23 can be accessed in a vehicle.

In the draft proposal, Parks and Lands staff wrote that the new trailer campsite or campsites could be developed by expanding existing drive-to campsites, including on the shores of one of the unit’s multiple ponds.

Another proposal up for consideration concerns the Alec Brook campsite in the Eagle Lake Public Reserve Land Unit, which spans 24,083 acres on the eastern half of Eagle Lake.

Located on the north shore of Eagle Lake, the Alec Brook campsite is currently accessible only by boat. The proposed change would make the Alec Brook campsite accessible to all-terrain vehicles and possibly road vehicles in the future, according to the proposal.

This change would involve upgrading about a half-mile of roadway, and include barriers near the campsite to prevent ATVs and other vehicles from driving onto the lake shore or into the water, according to the proposal.

In the proposal, Bureau of Parks and Lands staff wrote that the suggested changes grew out of a scheduled five-year review of the 15-year management plan for the Northern Aroostook Public Reserve Lands, which was developed in 2007.

One of the original management plan’s goals is to “provide a balanced spectrum of opportunities in keeping with those available in the region as a whole.” Bureau of Public Lands staff wrote in the proposal that those camping additions “are now warranted due to ongoing demand for the enhancements.”

In written comments submitted so far, the proposal for the Eagle Lake changes has drawn a mixed reaction.

Cathy Johnson, forests and wildlife project director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, wrote that making the boat-only Eagle Lake campsite accessible to ATVs and vehicles could “result in degradation of the semi-remote character of the area.”

Johnson also argued that if a separate proposed residential development on Square and Cross lakes goes through, the backcountry nature of the Eagle Lake Public Reserve Land could see higher overall traffic.

Paul Lozier of the Sly Brook Trail Blazers ATV Club in Wallagrass wrote in support of the additional accessibility to the Eagle Lake campsite.

“I believe that this campsite has great potential for year round use, even in the winter with ice fisherman,” Lozier wrote.

The agency is expected to make a decision on the proposals early this summer.

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