May 20, 2018
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Developer wants to convert historic Maine island property to luxury campground

Greater Portland Landmarks | BDN
Greater Portland Landmarks | BDN
A granite "engineer's" wharf on House Island offers a view of Portland.
By Jake Bleiberg, BDN Staff
Updated:

PORTLAND, Maine — The owner of part of House Island is looking to turn its southern end into a 21-site, luxury campground that would speckle the historic island with yurts and timber-frame canvas tents.

On July 27, Stefan Scarks submitted an initial plan to develop the Casco Bay island to the city.

The 24-acre island, which over the centuries has served as a military base, a fish processing plant, a corporate retreat and a holding facility for immigrants in quarantine, sits between Peaks Island and South Portland’s Spring Point. It is dominated by the 1800s-era Fort Scammel and was designated historic site in 2015.

Scarks, whose family owns the southern part of the island through a limited liability corporation, is seeking Portland’s Historic Preservation Board’s input on whether the proposed campground near Fort Scammel would meet the city’s historic preservation rules.

“Fort Scammel is an amazing historical site, which historically has been vastly underutilized,” Scarks wrote in a letter to the board. “We propose to build a campground that celebrates the history of the site through an immersive, educational experience that is truly unique.”

Through Fortland LLC, Scarks and a man named Travis Bullard are proposing to erect four buildings on the island that would serve people camping in the yurts and tents. In addition to those temporary structures, they would build a bathroom, a community building and two sheds on the island.

The proposal also calls for some alterations and repairs to existing structures on House Island, including upgrading a 19th century granite pier and installing signs, lighting and fencing around Fort Scammel.

The yurts and tents that Scarks is seeking to set up would be grouped in two areas — some within the footprint of the historic fort and others on a granite bluff immediately to its north.

Included in the documents filed with the city are photographs of a variety of tents and yurts that Scarks wrote might serve as a model for those in the campground. They include images of modest Civil War-era canvas tents; several more elaborate modern tents; and a yurt equipped with a refrigerator, stove and running water.

With the proposal, Scarks is following in the footsteps of his father, Michael Scarks, who purchased House Island in 2014 for $3 million.

The older Scarks, who died in unexpectedly in March 2015, intended to build luxury vacation homes on House Island but changed his plans and sold the northern half of the island after the Historic Preservation Board nominated to make it a historic district.

Scarks and Bullard did not respond to requests for comment. A phone message left for Neptune Properties LLC, the company through which Scarks owns part of House Island, was not returned.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified who owns southern House Island.


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