ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — People who want the experience of camping overnight in Maine’s only national park are expected to have a third option next summer.
Technically, the new campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, on the eastern side of Frenchman Bay, will not be on park property, as the Seawall and Blackwoods campgrounds on Mount Desert Island are. But Acadia officials say they are working on an agreement with the property owner, Lyme Timber, that would allow the park to operate and maintain the campground, which will be located between the village of Winter Harbor and the park’s picnic area at Frazer Point.
Officials have said this week that construction on the campground is expected to begin soon and to be completed by the summer of 2015. Peter Stein, Lyme Timber managing director, said Wednesday that getting permits for the campground proposal so far has cost Lyme Timber “more than $100,000” but he did not have a total cost estimate for the project.
Stein has said a philanthropic family foundation that prefers to remain anonymous has purchased an interest in the “critical” 3,200-acre 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 camping facilities are intended to replace the loss of camping facilities on the Schoodic Peninsula when the 148-acre Ocean Wood Campground in neighboring Gouldsboro closed in 2009, Stein has said.
The new campground, which will be about a mile south of Route 186, is expected to have 100 sites, with some offering electrical service for recreational vehicles and others reserved for tents.
Bicycle paths across the peninsula will be constructed to connect the campground to the Gouldsboro village of Wonsqueak Harbor, where the one-way loop road through the park becomes a two-way road, and to the former Ocean Wood Campground site on the eastern side of the peninsula.
Hiking trails also will be built on the Lyme Timber property, seamlessly connecting with existing trails on adjacent property owned by the park.
Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia, said this week that park officials believe the new seasonal campground will have between 250 and 300 overnight guests each night between early June and late October every year. Because the park and Lyme Timber have not yet worked out a management agreement for the campground, no reservation system has been set up and other details such as staffing and how operations will be funded have yet to be determined, he said.
But it is clear that the campground will help provide an economic boost to nearby towns, the superintendent added.
“This will extend the average length of stay in that area from a few hours to several days or longer and it means that these people will be shopping for groceries and other supplies in town,” Steele wrote Wednesday in an email. “Local shops and restaurants will also see benefit from these overnight guests.”
The campground, he added, “will be really helpful to the local economy, particularly since the Navy left.”
Acadia’s Schoodic Education and Research Center, at the tip of the peninsula, is located on the site of a former Navy base that the military vacated in 2002.
Steele said that though the campground and trails are expected to attract more tourists to the peninsula, the park hopes to strike a balance by which it can maintain the peninsula’s reputation as a less-crowded alternative to Mount Desert Island in the summer.
“We hope to maintain the high quality visitor experience in the Schoodic district,” Steele wrote. “We are hopeful that we can encourage most visitors to leave their cars parked and to enjoy the area by bike, foot or Island Explorer. We will likely implement some policies to provide for the safety of bikers, the number [of which] surely will increase, such as prohibiting large RVs from the loop road on Schoodic during the busiest season.”
The campground is being built on a 3,200-acre property that Lyme Timber bought in 2011, much to the relief of park officials and conservationists who were worried that the prior owner would follow through with plans to build a large resort next to the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park. At the time, Lyme Timber promised to work with conservation groups Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Friends of Acadia and others to create a plan for the property that, in the company’s words, “takes into account its conservation values and considers appropriate resource development.”
The Lyme Timber property is roughly cut in half by Route 186, with 1,800 acres north of the road and 1,400 acres to the south. Maine Coast Heritage Trust since has purchased a conservation easement on the southern part of the parcel, where the campground and trails are being built, and donated that easement to the park.
An earlier version of this story reported that the campground would be open this summer. It is expected to open the summer 2015 season.