< Family in Maine Hopes to Build World’s Tallest Flagpole
By John Russell
10 July 2023

In Maine's Down East area, large forests and ocean meet in one of the last undeveloped places on the U.S. East Coast.

The area is also the setting for the Worcester family's big vision. It involves building the largest flagpole in the world. It would reach higher than the Empire State Building. And at the top of the flagpole? An American flag bigger than a football field.

To supporters, the $1 billion project, financed in part by donations, would unite Americans and remind them of shared values at a time of political divisions.

FILE - This image from video provided by the Flagpole of Freedom Park in 2022 shows a rendering of a proposed world's tallest flagpole in Maine. The 10,000-acre plot is in a township overseen by a state agency, neighboring Columbia Falls. (Flagpole of Freedom Park via AP)
FILE - This image from video provided by the Flagpole of Freedom Park in 2022 shows a rendering of a proposed world's tallest flagpole in Maine. The 10,000-acre plot is in a township overseen by a state agency, neighboring Columbia Falls. (Flagpole of Freedom Park via AP)

But so far, the project — called the Flagpole of Freedom Park — has been a big subject of debate. Columbia Falls, with a population of 485 people, is the place closest to where the pole would rise. People there have different ideas about whether the project is a good idea.


Morrill Worcester is the founder of Worcester Wreath and the main force behind the project. He described the goal this way: "We want to bring Americans together...and unite a divided America."

But some local people have raised questions about the project. Does the quiet area want the visitors it would bring? Would the project hurt the land? How should one balance development and environmentalism?

The flagpole alone is a big proposal. It would be around 445 meters tall. Elevators would bring people to viewing areas where they could see Canada. One worried resident said: "It's like putting the Eiffel Tower in the Maine wilderness."

Morrill Worcester also imagines a village with living history museums telling the country's story through veterans' eyes. There would be restaurants, event buildings, and monument walls with the name of every veteran who has died since the American Revolution — about 24 million names.

In Columbia Falls, many were surprised by the size of the project. It would require cutting down trees for parking spaces and building housing for hundreds, maybe thousands of workers.

"This is the last wilderness on the East Coast," said Marie Emerson, whose husband, Dell, is a longtime blueberry farmer and university research farm manager.

She said the natural environment makes the area special. A large development could destroy forests and wild blueberry areas that have been here for thousands of years.

Economy and social issues

But behind the beauty lies an economy where many are struggling.

The area has some of the state's highest unemployment and poverty rates. The area's residents are among the state's oldest. The area is dealing with an opioid abuse problem.

There is a joke people tell in the area. It goes something like this: We may send lobsters, blueberries, and wreaths to the world, but our biggest export is young people looking for work.

Taking sides

After the project became public knowledge, town residents began taking sides. Some saw Worcester as a quiet man trying to do something good. Others saw a businessman used to getting his way, trying to force his version of America onto others.

Patriotism, critics say, is not measured by the height of a flagpole. But divisive political debates are not good, either, said Jeff Greene, a contractor and one of three members of the town's Select Board.

"What we're desperately in need of in this area in the country, or in the world as a whole, is the ability to listen to somebody you disagree with in an attempt to find something of value," he said, adding: "Even if you disagree with them."

The Worcester family has support and donations. It has not announced how much money it has raised. Mike Worcester is one of Morrill Worcester's sons. He said in a statement to the Associated Press that the family respects the wishes of town residents who want more time to study the proposal.

And so, that is how the project stands for now. It represents a moment in the life of a town. It also shows how the love of home and of country can be powerful and can sometimes be at odds.

Peter Doak, an army veteran, knows Morrill Worcester as a humble but determined man.

Doak describes his friend as a visionary. He describes it like this: People thought Walt Disney World, built in a Florida swampland, was a crazy idea. They thought Mount Rushmore was very strange and unusual. Both are now treasured in the United States.

"He's going to build that flagpole," Doak says. "So why shouldn't it be Columbia Falls?"

I'm John Russell.

And I'm Ashley Thompson.

David Sharp reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

vision –n. something you imagine or dream of that you believe is an important experience

flagpole n. a pole used to display a flag

resident n. one who lives in a place

wilderness – n. a wild and natural area in which few people live

manager – n. a person who directs or supervises a business or organization

opioid – n. a kind of drug that is used to reduce pain or cause sleep

wreath – n. an arrangement of leaves or flowers in the shape of a circle that is placed as a sign of honor

at odds – expression in a state of disagreement

humble – adj. not thinking of yourself as better than other people

determined – adj. having reached a decision : firmly resolved

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