WINTER HARBOR — The owners of the new Schoodic Woods Campground on the Schoodic Peninsula have transferred their interest in the property to the National Park Foundation.
The change in ownership occurred two weeks before the Sept. 2 ribbon-cutting at the 94-site campground.
Schoodic Woods also includes 8.5 miles of bicycle trails and five additional miles of hiking paths.
The Park Foundation’s sole mission is to support the National Park Service, which operates the campground.
The chairman of the foundation is Sally Jewell, U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) led off the grand opening festivities at the campground Wednesday afternoon.
Asked on Tuesday if he was aware of the gift by Schoodic Woods LLC, King said: “I know that it’s happening and my understanding is the same individual family that donated the land also donated the work on the park.”
“It’s a generous gift from an anonymous donor, and I certainly want to thank them,” he said.
Schoodic Woods LLC has two principals: Lyme Timber Co. of New Hampshire, which purchased 3,200 acres from a developer in Italy, and a family foundation that prefers to remain anonymous.
King planned to camp one night at Schoodic Woods with his wife, Mary, in their 24-foot recreational vehicle.
The senator and his family in 2011 spent nearly six months on a coast-to-coast RV journey after King completed two terms as governor of Maine.
Schoodic Woods “is a great asset for the park,” King said. “It takes a little pressure off portions of the park on Mount Desert and exposes people to another aspect of the park that is just wonderful.”
Retiring Acadia National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele, who also spoke at the Sept. 2 event, said the campground means generations of Americans will enjoy the Schoodic Peninsula in new ways.
“They will have a great experience thanks to the vision and foresight of donors acting through the National Park Foundation,” Steele said.
“My wife, Barb, and I, have ridden all of the new bike trails and walked the new hiking trails and we can enthusiastically recommend them to you,” he added. “Just think of the family times around the campfire, the rich s’mores, evenings under the stars and the wonderful hikes and bike rides yet to come.”
Next year the campground will open Memorial Day weekend in late May and close Columbus Day weekend in mid-October.
This year reservations are first come, first served. In 2016, the campground will be part of the National Park Service reservation system.
According to the property transfer recorded with the Hancock County Registry of Deeds Aug. 14, Schoodic Woods LLC transferred 1,400 acres to the National Park Foundation.
Susan Newton, an executive with the National Park Foundation, announced on Wednesday that the foundation has taken ownership of the property until it can be transferred to the National Park Service.
The campground and expanded trail system are expected to provide an economic development boost to the Peninsula.
Steele, Acadia’s outgoing superintendent, said a motivating factor behind the campground was to extend visitors’ stays from a single day to two to three nights.
National Park campgrounds historically fill up once opened, he said, estimating the campground will bring about 300 additional people to the Peninsula each day.
The park also is interested in alleviating the pressure of nearly 2 million visitors to the much larger Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.
Sen. King traveled to Winter Harbor from Cobscook Bay in coastal Maine, where he had been camping with his wife for two days.
He said camping is a wholesome lifestyle that appeals to the visitor’s sense of novelty and adventure.
“You meet people from all over the country,” King said.
Among the early arrivals at Schoodic Woods Sept. 1 were Tim and Celeste Barr of Milford, N.H.
They said the sites are well groomed, offer a measure of privacy and, most importantly for tent campers such as themselves, are flat.
“Sleeping on roots and rocks can be tough,” Celeste said.
The Barrs were originally headed to Acadia National Park on MDI when Celeste spotted the new campground on the Park Service website.
“We like being off the beaten path,” Celeste said.
“We are here until Sunday, maybe Monday,” Tim said.
Martha James of Epping, N.H., was camping in nearby Sullivan with her husband, three children and the family dog when she heard about the new campground.
The family planned to hike and bike the Schoodic Woods’ trails. James said they would be back next year to camp.
“We can enjoy biking and hiking in Bar Harbor, but we’d rather be here where it’s more quiet,” James said.
Rich and Mary Bates of York, Pa., have visited the area for the past decade and stay in Lamoine, as there was no campground available on the Schoodic Peninsula — until now.
“We usually stay a few nights in one place,” Rich said.
“You want something private and flat,” Mary said.