WINTER HARBOR, Maine — A Hanover, N.H.-based company that purchased 3,200 acres of forestland on the Schoodic Peninsula last year to help conserve it from development is drafting a plan for how the property might be used.
According to a top official with Lyme Timber, a 1,400-acre section between Route 186 and the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park could have biking and hiking trails, camping facilities and a “modest” visitors center. The company held a public meeting last week in Winter Harbor to describe user features it is considering for the property.
According to a prepared statement released by the company, an unidentified philanthropic family foundation has purchased an interest in the “critical” property to ensure it is conserved, that there is permanent public access to it, and to help plan what sort of improvements might be made. The family foundation wishes to remain anonymous, according to the statement.
Peter Stein, managing director with Lyme Timber, said Friday that whatever trails, camping facilities or visitors center might be created would be done so by the company over the “next couple of years.” The camping facilities, he said, would be intended to replace the loss of camping facilities on the Schoodic Peninsula when the 148-acre Ocean Wood Campground in neighboring Gouldsboro closed down in 2009.
“That was an extremely popular campground and very well used,” Stein said.
Any trails that are created on the property likely would connect to existing trails located on the 2,300 acres of adjacent land owned by Acadia National Park, he said.
Stein said that Lyme Timber expects to hold another set of informal public meetings in about six months to a year, after it has had time to refine its plans. If the company needs municipal or state approval for any of those improvements, he said, it would probably file applications for those permits sometime in late summer or early fall of 2013.
“We’re just beginning the planning process to figure that out,” Stein said.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which helped arrange for Lyme Timber’s purchase of the land, has more than four years remaining on a five-year option to acquire a conservation easement on the 1,400 acres of land between Route 186 and the Acadia property line. According to Tim Glidden, president of MCHT, the easement would preserve the property’s undeveloped coastline and its other ecological attributes, but it would allow for improvements that would enhance the public’s access to the property and the recreation opportunities available on it.
“We are delighted to be a part of the project,” Glidden said in the statement.
Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia, said the park is confident that the improvements would mesh well with existing public access and recreational opportunities on the park’s property and with the park’s mission of preserving the land from development. It also would help contribute to the economy of the Schoodic region, he said.
Lyme Timber’s plan for the property “will enhance existing Acadia National Park lands while improving tourism opportunities and encouraging overnight stays,” Steele said.
Lyme Timber hasn’t formulated any plans for the 1,800 acres of land it acquired north of Route 186 in last year’s purchase. This portion of the property will continue to be managed for sustainable forestry activities, it said.
The New Hampshire firm describes itself as a private timberland investment management organization with an extensive background in acquiring and managing lands with “unique conservation values.” In the past 20 years, Lyme Timber has been involved in rural real estate investment projects in Amherst, Bar Harbor and Grand Lake Stream and on Donnell Pond and Nicatous Lake, to name a few.
Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.