June 18, 2018
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Saving Schoodic Peninsula

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
Waves crash onto the rocky shoreline at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park in November 2010.

For years, plans for commercial development near the Schoodic Peninsula have threatened the quiet beauty of a prime part of Acadia National Park. The park, as most know, includes 2,300 acres on the southern tip of Schoodic Point, along with its more high-profile presence on Mount Desert Island. At last, things are on track to preserve the rest of the peninsula for environmentally sound management. Here’s the story:

A wealthy Italian father and son, Bruno and Vittorio Modena, in the 1980s had bought 3,200 acres of land in Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro. The tract includes nearly half of Schoodic Peninsula. It abuts the Acadia National Park portion and includes the scenic drive that approaches the park from Winter Harbor as well as Sargent’s Island just off the coast.

The Italians, through their Winter Harbor Holdings LLC, planned in 2006 to develop an “eco-resort,” with an 18-hole golf course, a lodge and as many as 1,000 luxury home sites, together with some nature-study centers an a “green” strip next to the park to appease environmentalists. Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele described the plan as “the biggest single threat to Acadia.”

In the face of opposition by conservationists and park officials, the scheme languished for years but remained a continuing threat. The Friends of Acadia group tried repeatedly to talk with the Modenas about purchasing the tract but got no response.

A break came last year when Vittorio Modena finally agreed to negotiate a purchase, not with the environmentalists but with a businessman, Peter Stein, managing director of Lyme Timber Company in Hanover, N.H. Mr. Stein had a sterling record for environmentally sound timberland management in cooperation with conservation groups. In this case, he worked with Friends of Acadia and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

Lyme Timber announced last week the purchase of the 3,200-acre tract. The company said that it would work with the conservation groups to create a plan for the southern portion of the property that “takes into account its conservation values and considers appropriate resource development.” Mr. Stein has assured that “there isn’t going to be extensive harvesting on the property any time soon.”

Details of the management of the property will be worked out with Lyme Timber under an option agreement with Friends of Acadia and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust that provides for negotiation of a conservation easement. The two groups have already begun raising funds for purchase of the easement.

No one will tell how much Lyme Timber paid for the tract, but it certainly will be a substantial amount, as will the likely cost of the easement. Mr. Steele says only that the property is “priceless.” He adds that 50 years from now people will look back and say, “What a deal!”

Lyme Timber will make money by selective harvesting as specified in agreement with the conservation groups and in selling the easement. The Modenas got a handsome payment. And the public can know that the park at the point will remain untouched by the sight and noise of nearby commercial development.

It’s a good deal for both.

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