ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — It may represent only 3 percent of the land it owns or on which it has conservation easements, but Maine’s only national park is growing by more than 1,400 acres.
According to the Federal Register, a change in the boundary of the park to reflect the addition of land south of Route 186 on the Schoodic Peninsula became effective on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
The land, 1,441 acres in all, is adjacent to approximately 2,000 acres at the tip of the peninsula that the park has owned for decades. The additional parcel effectively has been managed as part of the park for the past few years, after Lyme Timber acquired the parcel in 2011. Lyme Timber purchased the land from a holding company controlled by the Modena family of Italy that had alarmed park officials and conservationists when it publicized plans, which it later dropped, to build a resort on the property.
Lyme Timber conveyed the property in August to the National Park Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises private funds to help support national parks and programs and which frequently serves as an intermediary owner in the sale of properties from private owners to the National Park Service. Lyme Timber is retaining ownership of 1,800 acres north of Route 186 that it purchased as part of the 2011 acquisition.
Though it did not own the property, the National Park Service acquired a conservation easement for the entire 1,441-acre parcel in 2013. Two months ago, after two years of work, the park opened the Schoodic Woods campground and a network of hiking and biking trails on the property.
Mike Madell, interim superintendent of Acadia, said Tuesday that the adjustment of the boundary is a prelude to the legal transfer of ownership of the property from the National Park Foundation to the National Park Service, which he said is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
Madell said Wednesday that because of the location, the recreational uses and conservation easements on the property, there is no reason to keep ownership of it in private hands.
“It just makes sense to bring it into the public domain,” Madell said.
When the transfer in ownership is complete, Acadia National Park will either own or have conservation easements on nearly 50,000 acres, most of which is on Mount Desert Island. The park owns nearly 37,000 acres spread out between MDI, the Schoodic Peninsula and Isle Au Haut and owns easements on an additional 12,000 acres of abutting or nearby land.
David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia, said Tuesday in an emailed statement that the transfer of the property won’t result in a major change in how it is being managed, given the conservation easement the park service acquired two years ago.
“On the other hand, any time you add 1,400 acres to Acadia National Park, it is a historic moment and an accomplishment to be celebrated,” MacDonald added. “I don’t think we will see another project of this scale and possessing so many conservation values in our lifetimes. I think it is appropriate that the land will soon be under full park ownership, and that it will provide real benefits to the park visitors and neighboring communities for years to come.”