The University of New England on Tuesday formally announced it has acquired Ram Island in Saco Bay, which school officials described as a “learning laboratory on Maine’s coast.”

Barry Costa-Pierce, chairman of the university’s Department of Marine Sciences, said in a statement that the offshore research opportunities afforded by the island “place UNE at the forefront of marine programs, not only the Northeast, but in this nation,” adding that the acquisition “allows students to be involved in all of the ocean, coastal, marine and environmental issues of the 21st century.”

The approximately one-acre island sits two miles offshore, and was donated to the university by the family of Portland philanthropist and real estate developer Art Girard, who made headlines last year as the winning bidder in a U.S. Coast Guard sale of the 1855 Boon Island Light Station — at 133 feet in height, considered the tallest lighthouse in New England.

Girard then reportedly resold the lighthouse property, off the coast of York, to a buyer with more resources to maintain the historic structure. The developer had previously been one of the final two bidders to acquire another lighthouse, the 1905 Ram Island Ledge Light, before reportedly losing a coin toss to a Windham neurosurgeon for the rights to the property.

Ram Island, not to be confused with Ram Island Ledge Light in Portland Harbor, has a 500-square-foot house on it and has an assessed value of $175,900, according to the Portland Press Herald.

“Its location and relatively unspoiled environment teeming with marine wildlife was the perfect match for the studies supported by the Marine Sciences Department,” said Girard in a statement released by the university. “UNE stood out to me for [its] progressive curriculum and extraordinary management team. I have no doubt it will be an excellent custodian of Ram Island.”

In addition to campuses in Portland and Biddeford, UNE also has a campus in Tangier, Morocco.

Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.