LINCOLN, Maine — He doesn’t see it as a big moneymaker, but Andy Rowe wouldn’t be surprised if dozens of pilots use the free campground available at the town airport this summer, he said Wednesday.
“It’s a lovely little airport in a nice town and a unique airport in that there is a nice paved runway for planes on wheels and there is the [Penobscot River] right there for float planes,” said Rowe, Maine’s liaison officer to the 5,000-member Recreational Aviation Foundation and a Seaplane Pilots Association member. “And right at the river is a lovely campground.
“There are plenty of airports that would probably let you camp out, but not too many that have a campground right there with power, Internet access and hot and cold running water,” added Rowe, a South Hope resident. “It’s the best of all possible worlds.”
Town councilors hope he is correct. They voted 6-0 on Monday to allow Lincoln Regional Airport Manager David Lloyd to open the campground adjacent to the airport to pilots for free this year. Pilots will be encouraged to donate money to the campground, Lloyd said.
Councilors also voted 6-0 to approve an ordinance change that allows the town to lease four dock slips in Mattanawcook Lake to boaters at $60 per month or $300 per season, which runs from May 1 to Columbus Day, town Economic Development Coordinator Ruth Birtz said. Councilor Shaun Drinkwater was absent.
The campground will open as soon as tests of the campground well are finished in a week or two, council Chairman Steve Clay said. Sales of mooring slip permits will begin at the town office on Monday, Birtz said.
Clay complimented town officials for thinking creatively and trying to draw more public and economic benefits from town assets — in this case, the airport and Mattanawcook Lake — as state and local revenues shrink.
“You have to start looking at ways to create revenue that we might lose out on. We don’t know yet if these efforts will succeed, but you have to try,” Clay said Wednesday.
Lincoln voters in late July 2012 agreed to accept a $237,000 grant to acquire land at the airport, including a small terminal building, a nearby hangar and about 5 acres at the north end of the runway. The land includes the campground. The town kicked in $11,850 for the purchase. The measure passed 317-105 in a special referendum.
The purchases are part of a town plan formulated in the mid 2000s to use Federal Aviation Administration grant funds to gradually build out the two-runway airport and seaplane dock in the Penobscot River and land nearby that is slated for an industrial park.
The plan is based on several aviation-based companies around the airport, which is off West Broadway and River Road, and expected nationwide increases in local airport use. Millinocket’s regional airport is among several statewide following similar plans.
Both of Lincoln’s pilot programs are expected to draw more tourists into the area. Funds they generate will go into the airport’s or the town’s dock maintenance program. Lincoln has public launches on 10 of the 13 lakes and ponds within town lines, and the Penobscot River, Birtz said.
The foundation and association will publicize Lincoln’s initiatives within the next few weeks, Rowe said.
Businesses might see more benefits initially from the airport program, Lloyd and Clay said.
“Flying is no different than traveling by motorcycle. You can’t buy much stuff,” Lloyd said, “so once you get here, you have to buy your supplies locally.”
“You can come here, pitch your tent, then fly your floatplane over to Mattanawcook Lake and go shopping downtown,” Lloyd added. “Where else in the state of Maine can you do that?”