February 21, 2020
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Drawn by Acadia National Park, a Montana company wants to build a ‘glampsite’ in Surry

Courtesy of Under Canvas
Courtesy of Under Canvas
A glamping tent like this one at the Under Canvas glampsite in the Smoky Mountains will be built in Surry if the proposal is approved. The review process is ongoing.

SURRY, Maine — A Montana-based luxury campsite operator is making its second venture east of the Mississippi River with a proposal to build its ninth “glamping” site close to Acadia National Park.

Under Canvas of Bozeman, Montana, submitted a proposal to build a seasonal, luxury camping resort on a 101-acre former hay farm on Route 172 that the company agreed to buy if the project is approved. The move to build the glamping site — with tents that have king-size beds, luxe linens, bathrooms and wood-burning stoves — is part of a national expansion for the company to complement existing resorts near National Park Service sites including the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore.

“East Coast camp locations have been a long time coming,” Under Canvas CEO Sarah Dusek said. “New York is a top market for Under Canvas, so we’re thrilled to offer experiences closer to home for New Yorkers and deliver on our most requested national park location to date — Acadia.”

Surry residents’ reaction to the proposal has been mixed, said Betsy Armstrong, a member of the town’s Board of Selectmen.

Courtesy of Under Canvas
Courtesy of Under Canvas
Surry might have dozens of glamour camps, like this glamping tent at the Under Canvas glampsite in the Smoky Mountains if a development proposal is approved.

In a town with a year-round population of 1,472, some residents welcome the development while others fear that the campground could crowd town roads with traffic from as many as 300 tourists during peak season, she said.

Some have voiced objections to nuisance smoke coming from campfires and the site’s need for septic systems.

Selectmen are grappling with how to fairly assess the camp’s property value for taxation purposes. The camp’s primary structures would not be buildings, but canvas tents are not addressed in current property tax laws, Selectman Bill Matlock said.

Many of the complaints, Armstrong said, might be a symptom of culture clash between area residents and their perception of the tourists who will come to town and pay $149 to $514 a night to camp glamorously.

Hancock County already has at least one glamping site. Called Woods of Eden, the four-tent glampground is located in Bar Harbor. Another company, Tentr, which is often referred to as the “Airbnb of camping,” opened 10 glamping sites last summer in seven state parks: Peaks-Kenny in Dover-Foxcroft, Bradbury Mountain, Rangeley Lake, Camden Hills, Mount Blue, Lamoine and Warren Island. Another company has a glamping site in Kennebunkport.

The concept hasn’t really caught on yet in Surry, Armstrong said.

“There are some people who wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of commercial interest in Surry. There are others that don’t want to have it. They don’t want to have much of anything at all, especially something that’s this grand,” Armstrong said.

Courtesy of Under Canvas
Courtesy of Under Canvas
Tents like this will rent for several hundred dollars a night in Surry if a development proposal is approved.

“It’s a strange scheme. I mean, I can only imagine the people that will participate in this,” she added.

The company plans to open with 75 tent sites and add more later, said Rachel Zembraski, a company spokeswoman.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Tim Ferrell, who is just beginning his project review, said it seems likely that the number of tents will be determined by the number of septic tanks the site can hold. The town might also ask Under Canvas to build a pond on the site that firefighters can pull from in emergencies, Matlock said. That could also affect the number of tents allowed.

The town’s review and another by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection are continuing. The Surry Planning Board will likely discuss the project at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the company is making its first venture east of the Mississippi River.

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