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Plans to build the world’s tallest flagpole — and a billion-dollar patriotic theme park to surround it — are still up in the air as the town of Columbia Falls, Maine, considers a temporary moratorium on large-scale projects.
If the developers get their way, the so-called Flagpole of Freedom Park would turn hundreds of acres of wilderness into a commercial destination and monument to America’s veterans, its signature flagpole rising a symbolic 1,776 feet above sea level.
But the moratorium vote, slated for Tuesday, highlights local debate over whether the Flagpole of Freedom would be a boon or a burden to the small, rural town of fewer than 500 people.
Here’s what we know:
The Flagpole of Freedom is the brainchild of the Worcesters, a local family best known for their nonprofit Wreaths Across America, which places memorial wreaths at veterans’ graves throughout the U.S. each holiday season.
The family announced plans for the Flagpole of Freedom project last year, according to News Center Maine, and eyed a July 4, 2026 opening date — America’s 250th birthday. Complete with observation decks, convention space, theaters, and retail, the pole would fly an American flag nearly the size of one-and-a-half football fields.
“The American flag is the great symbol of what every single veteran has fought for,” family patriarch Morrill Worcester said in a promotional video on the Flagpole of Freedom website.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “We want to remember those veterans and honor their families, and teach generations to come of what those veterans did for all of us.”
Son Rob Worcester, the project’s co-founder and managing director, added: “This will be a place that’s known as the most patriotic place there is.”
The park would also feature walls listing the names of each of the roughly 24 million U.S. veterans who have died over more than two centuries. Additional amenities would include restaurants, hotels, museums, retail, a 4,000-seat venue, and a 4D theater.
Much of the land for the proposed park sits on unorganized territory and falls under the state Land Use Planning Commission’s purview, according to a joint article from The Boston Globe and The Maine Monitor. The Worcesters want the town to annex the land, which would speed up permitting and help direct taxes from the park to the town, the news outlets reported.
The Worcesters estimate the park could create 5,000 jobs and attract 6 million visitors each year, according to the Globe and The Maine Monitor.
Some in Columbia Falls believe the park would be a welcome addition to a community lacking in economic opportunity, where the median income hovers around $47,000.
“We need something here — we desperately need something,” Nancy Bailey, who raised two children in Columbia Falls, told the Globe and The Maine Monitor.
Others are a bit more skeptical.
“It’s just too big for the area,” said farmer Dell Emerson, who runs the roadside attraction Wild Blueberry Land with his wife, Marie.
“I don’t think the facilities that we have in the town could handle an influx of 5,000 people,” he told the Globe and The Maine Monitor.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t want change,” Rob Worcester told The Maine Monitor last spring. “But I think that [Washington County is] economically struggling a little bit and I think we can help.”
The Worcesters previously said that the project’s first phase would cost $1 billion and be funded through private donations, according to News Center Maine.
However, with construction already facing delays, co-founder Mike Worcester said the family was “in the process of returning” donors’ money, but “remain[s] committed to moving this project forward,” the Globe and The Maine Monitor reported. A fundraising page on the Flagpole of Freedom website is no longer functional.
A refund policy posted to the website states that construction will not begin until the founders have raised 25% of the funds needed to build the park; if the project fell short of that threshold as of March 30, 2023, donors would receive a refund.
In a statement obtained by the Globe and The Maine Monitor, the family said it was reconsidering its approach to the park, but that it would not run the park as a nonprofit.
According to Amanda Methot, an attorney representing Columbia Falls, the proposed six-month moratorium would give the town time to plan and possibly write new policies to protect itself from the impacts of a large-scale development, Maine Public reported.
“The last thing I think any of us would want to see is a multiphase project only getting half built and is just sitting there rotting, and not creating more value, not creating more tax dollars,” Methot said at a recent meeting, according to Maine Public.
Columbia Falls surveyed its residents about the proposed moratorium, and 82% said they were in support, the news outlet reported.
If passed, the moratorium would be a setback for the Flagpole of Freedom, though not a fatal one, according to its founders.
“If a moratorium is what the majority of residents and municipal officials want to happen in Columbia Falls, that is up to the people of Columbia Falls,” Rob Worcester told The Maine Monitor in October. “Either the state or another municipality will reap the social, tax, and economic benefits should Columbia Falls choose not to support the annexation.”
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