There continues to be speculation about the identity of who donated a 1,441-acre parcel on the Schoodic Peninsula to Acadia National Park, but Elliotsville Plantation spokesman David Farmer said Roxanne Quimby, her family and the entities they control were not involved in acquiring the property, developing a campground and bicycle trails on it or in donating it to Acadia.
Lucas St. Clair, Quimby’s son and the president of Elliotsville Plantation, reiterated that neither Elliotsville nor his mother nor the Quimby Family Foundation played any role in the acquisition of the Schoodic parcel. But, he said, the donation certainly is something they heartily endorse.
“I spent a lot of time out riding [the bike trails] there last fall,” St. Clair said. “We are delighted it has happened.”
The 1,441-acre Schoodic Woods parcel abuts the northern edge of a 2,000-acre parcel that was donated to Acadia in 1929 by the estate of John G. Moore.
Since the federal government first was given land on Mount Desert Island 100 years ago, the largest single donation to Acadia has been 2,700 acres on the Knox County island of Isle Au Haut that was conveyed in 1943 by the heirs of Ernest Bowditch, according to park officials.
There has been little, if any, objection by area residents to Acadia owning the added acreage on the Schoodic Peninsula, but there has been criticism of the manner in which the land was donated.
The transfer of the land, which was done without approval from Congress or consultation from a mandated citizen advisory commission, has reopened old fears about surrounding towns being slowly swallowed up by an indefinite expansion of federal lands.
Unlike the land on MDI that Elliotsville plans to donate to the park, the donated land on Schoodic lies outside the boundary limit that was set by Congress 30 years ago.
The same law Congress passed in 1986 also mandated that Congress directly approve any expansion beyond that limit and that the park establish a citizen advisory commission to consult with on “the acquisition of lands and interests in lands,” according to information posted on Acadia National Park’s website.
National Park Service officials, however, annexed the land without consulting with either Congress or the advisory commission, citing an obscure 1929 law that they say allows them to accept ownership of donated land in Hancock County, as opposed to purchasing it, without congressional approval. The interpretation prompted members of the advisory commission and of Maine’s Congressional delegation to voice concerns over the validity of the land transfer.
Kevin Schneider, superintendent of the park, has said in recognition of the controversy that Acadia will not rely on the 1929 law again to accept donated land as long as he holds his position. Delegation members also are looking into closing the possible loophole to ensure such land transfers don’t happen again, regardless of who is superintendent.
Up until late 2011, there were concerns about conserving the Schoodic area property after the then-owner of the parcel, a partnership led by the Modena family of Italy, had proposed developing it into a large-scale resort. But in December of that year, officials announced that Lyme Timber, a private timberland investment management firm from Hanover, New Hampshire, had reached an agreement to buy the parcel from the Modenas.
However, according to Peter Stein, managing director for Lyme Timber, soon after the announcement was made, a private family foundation approached the firm and offered to provide the capital for the purchase so it could then donate the land to Acadia.
Lyme and the family foundation formed Schoodic Woods LLC, with the Hanover company remaining as managing member of the partnership so the foundation could remain anonymous.
The purchase price for the land, according to Stein, was $12 million. Maine Department of Environmental Protection documents filed at the Hancock County Registry of Deeds office indicate that the cost for building the Schoodic Woods Campground and a network of foot and bike trails on the property was $17 million.
Together, the cost of acquiring the property and of building the campground and trail network added up to $29 million.