A large tract of land that once was part of a proposed “eco-resort” next to the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park has been donated to a land trust that plans to conserve it.
Ownership of 1,700 acres of forest on the north side of Route 186 in Winter Harbor was transferred to Maine Coast Heritage Trust last week.
The previous owner, Schoodic Woods LLC, acquired the property 10 years ago, as part of a partnership between New Hampshire firm Lyme Timber and a private family foundation, the identity of which has not been disclosed. Previously, it was owned by an entity controlled by the Modena family of Italy, which had proposed developing sections of it and another 1,441 acres on the south side of Route 186 into a large-scale resort.
The resort proposal was fiercely opposed by many area residents, conservation groups and by Acadia National Park. When Schoodic Woods acquired both properties — the land on both sides of Route 186, totaling roughly 3,200 acres — it prevented such development from going forward.
The land on the south side of Route 186 was later donated to the National Park Foundation, which then transferred ownership of the 1,441-acre portion to Acadia. The park already owned 2,000 acres at the tip of the Schoodic peninsula that abutted the donated land.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust plans to retain ownership of the land on the north side of Route 186 as part of its conserved land, according to Bob Deforrest, project manager for the trust.
Deforrest said that Schoodic Woods LLC never put any conservation easement on the 1,700 acres on the north side of Route 186, meaning it could have developed the property. By transferring ownership of the property to the trust, he said, it becomes permanently protected from development.
The property now owned by the trust is one of several large abutting properties owned by various organizations that together comprise an undeveloped swath of forested land that connects Schoodic Point in Acadia to The Nature Conservancy’s Spring River Preserve in Township 16, roughly 27 miles due north.
The conservation of the properties, which add up to approximately 30,000 acres, is part of a collaborative effort among the groups to preserve a corridor where wildlife can roam largely unhindered between the ocean shoreline and vast tracts of undeveloped land in northern Hancock County and beyond.
Protecting the land will help plants and animals that live there adapt to climate change, Deforrest said
“Habitat protection of this size and scope has become increasingly important and increasingly rare,” DeForrest said. “If we conserve these connected landscapes now, wildlife will have a greater chance of finding food and hospitable places to live as temperatures continue to warm.”
The trust will manage the newly acquired 1,700-acre parcel with scientific assistance from Schoodic Institute, which operates an education and research center in Acadia at Schoodic Point. The primary goals are to maintain the mostly forested land as wildlife habitat, and to support research and educational opportunities, but the trust does plan to provide some kind of public access to the property.
“We’ll go through a process with the community to decide what sort of public access there should be,” Deforrest said.