New Hampshire timber company buys 3,200 acres next to Acadia

Aerial view of Winter Harbor property.
Photo courtesy The Lyme Timber Company LP
Aerial view of Winter Harbor property.
Posted Dec. 20, 2011, at 11:39 a.m.
Last modified Dec. 20, 2011, at 7:09 p.m.
Eric Zelz | BDN

WINTER HARBOR, Maine — Ending years of speculation about what might happen to a pristine chunk of forest land located next to Acadia National Park, a New Hampshire firm announced Tuesday that it is buying more than 3,000 acres of land on the Schoodic peninsula.

The Lyme Timber Company of Hanover, N.H., is buying approximately 3,200 acres of land from Winter Harbor Holdings LLC, the timber company indicated in a prepared statement. Winter Harbor Holdings is owned in part by Bruno and Vittorio Modena, a father-and-son millionaire duo from Milan, Italy, who first acquired the property in the 1980s.

In an email sent Tuesday to the media, a Lyme Timber official indicated that the company plans to conserve the land.

The Modenas had proposed developing part of the property into a so-called “eco-resort” that would have included a golf course, a hotel, a lodge and as many as 1,000 homes. Conservationists, representatives of Acadia National Park , and some local residents raised objections to the plan, however, because of the adverse impact they said it would have on the area and on the 2,300 acres of Acadia located at the tip of the peninsula.

In its statement, Lyme Timber said it intends to work with conservation groups Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Friends of Acadia and other stakeholder groups to create a plan for the property that “takes into account its conservation values and considers appropriate resource development.”

In a phone interview Tuesday, Lyme Timber Managing Director Peter Stein said the firm plans to keep the property classified as tree growth for tax purposes and that it will update the property’s management plan. He said Maine Coast Heritage Trust has a five-year option to purchase conservation easement for 1,500 acres at the southern end of the property, next to the Acadia parcel.

How the firm will harvest trees on the property, and what kind of public uses will be allowed on it, has not been determined, Stein said, but the company will consult with MCHT and Acadia officials when making those decisions. Future development of some sort is not out of the question, he said, but it likely would be small-scale and done with concerns of Acadia officials in mind. Lyme Timber has developed some residential lots on Mount Desert Island in consultation with park officials, he said, and likely would do the same on the Schoodic property.

He said the previous owners harvested timber on the Schoodic property in 1996 and the replacement growth needs more time to grow before it is ready to be cut.

“There isn’t going to be extensive harvesting on the property anytime soon,” Stein said.

Cathy Carruthers, town manager for Winter Harbor, said Tuesday that local residents are largely relieved that the Modenas have sold the land. She is glad, she said, that the property will be conserved in a relatively natural state.

“People were not in favor [of the eco-resort project] at all,” she said.

Sheridan Steele, superintendent of Acadia, said park officials are “thrilled” that the property has been sold to Lyme Timber. He said he believes the company will work with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Acadia to make sure its operations on the peninsula are in keeping with the relatively undeveloped quality of the area.

“We’re extremely pleased that property has changed hands,” Steele said. “I have faith that the end result will be great.”

Marla O’Byrne, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said Tuesday that though many details of exactly how the land will be used have yet to be worked out, there is a commitment from Lyme Timber to work cooperatively with the conservation groups.

“This happened quickly. [Lyme Timber’s] concern was to secure the property,” O’Byrne said. “We’re confident that good things will come from this.”

According to the company’s statement, Lyme Timber has been an active landowner in Maine for more than two decades and has partnered with numerous conservation groups and state and federal agencies. It has purchased more than 36,000 acres in Maine, including other significant holdings in Hancock and Washington counties, and has consulted on projects that have conserved more than 785,000 acres in Maine.

Other projects Lyme Timber has pursued in Maine include conserving 5,400 acres in Amherst, 600 acres on Mount Desert Island, and more than 22,000 acres in the Grand Lake Stream area.

“We are delighted to have acquired this important parcel,” Stein said in the statement. “The property is an important local [and] regional resource with significant ecological value, and we are pleased at the opportunity to ensure the future of its natural resources.”

In the same statement, the head of MCHT said Lyme Timber will be a good partner in conserving the peninsula’s rural, relatively undeveloped state.

“We look forward to working with Lyme Timber to advance our shared goals of conserving this land that means so much to the Schoodic Peninsula and the people of Maine,” MCHT President Tim Glidden said.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter (@billtrotter) on Twitter.

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