Founder of Burt’s Bees donates land for new park
The founder of Burt’s Bees cosmetics, Roxanne Quimby, is attempting to donate a national park to the government in Northern Maine. Quimby, a longtime Maine resident of Portland, has purchased more than 120,000 acres of woodlands during her life. She plans to give more than 70,000 of these acres, located next to Baxter State Park, to the federal government, thereby creating a new Maine Woods National Park. If her proposal is successful, the new park will be almost twice the size of Maine’s beloved Acadia National Park.
Originally from Massachusetts, Quimby decided against attending business school like the rest of her sisters. She ventured off to San Francisco in the early 1970s, only to return to the East Coast - specifically, Maine - with her boyfriend in 1975. The couple bought 30 acres of land in Guilford, constructed a cabin, and continued living what they fondly referred to as the “good life.”
When Quimby met beekeeper, Burt Shavitz, the two started a business that would become unfathomably successful. She began using Burt’s beeswax to create candles in 1984 that she sold at craft fairs. After their company made $20,000 in the first year, Quimby and Shavitz decided to continue developing the business and their products began appearing in boutiques and specialty shops across the country. Finally, in 1991, the company launched what is still its bestselling product: lip balm featuring beeswax as its primary ingredient.
Although Quimby relocated to North Carolina when the business started to grow, she demonstrated that it is possible to make a small fortune without an MBA. With a portion of the company’s profits, she began purchasing land for conservation purposes. She made major land purchases in 2003, when Quimby sold 80 percent of the company for $170 million, and later in 2007, when she sold the remaining 20 percent for $180 million.
A new national park was last created in Alaska during the 1980s Carter Administration. If Quimby’s idea gains enough support from the government, she will time her donation to coincide with the celebration of the creation of the National Park Service. This celebration takes place in five years. Quimby also wants to create a visitor center at the park that is dedicated to naturalist Henry David Thoreau, who visited Maine three times during the 1800s.
Maine sportsmen, who have been outraged by Quimby’s strict restrictions on all-terrain vehicles, hunters, loggers and snowmobiles on her property, have strongly criticized her proposal. However, Quimby plans to alleviate these tensions with the sportsmen by donating another 30,000 acres of woodlands to be managed as a state park, which would permit hunting and snowmobiling.
Last year, Quimby joined the Board of the National Park Foundation, an organization that raises money for park service projects and acquisitions. This could help her achieve her goals, which extend beyond conservation; she also maintains that the new park will create jobs by drawing millions of new visitors to the region.