A campground proposed in Ellsworth could be among the first in the area to offer high-end treehouses to its guests.
Dawnland Campground would be located on Route 1 near the Orland town line, if the three families involved can get approval from the city to develop the site. It would include eight small treehouses, each with electricity and plumbing and a kitchenette, as well as six upscale tents on the ground and maybe two tiny houses, for 18 total sites.
“Not a lot of people have done treehouses,” Tim Stone, one of three partners whose families are involved in the proposal.
He said tree houses are “whimsical,” and evoke childhood memories for many people. Also, the 62-acre site off Bucksport Road is big enough that campers would enjoy the quiet of being surrounded by trees, he said.
“We want to build a development that is low density and gives people a private experience,” Stone said.
If the campground gets built, it would join a list of so-called ‘glamping’ sites in Maine that have recently been built or upgraded to include higher-end short-term accommodations. Several, such as Terramor Outdoor Resort in Bar Harbor and Under Canvas in Surry, feature heavy canvas tents with wood floors, electric lights and bathrooms.
Camping in Maine — whether or not it involves relatively luxurious accommodations — has seen a surge in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted vacationers to spend more time outside and away from crowds. The surge in tourism last year reached record heights for Acadia National Park on nearby Mount Desert Island, which surpassed 4 million annual visits for the first time in its 106-year history.
Stone, a builder and high school teacher in Stony Brook, New York, said he and his partners are planning to buy the property where the campground would be located, if the project is approved. The other two partners, Scott Bradshaw and Matt Krivonen, are engineers by trade. It would be the first campground or lodging business for the group.
“We’re not a corporation,” Stone said. “We want to keep [the campground] pretty small.”
Stone spends his summers in Hancock County and is building a home in Otter Creek on Mount Desert Island, where he says he plans to live year-round.
The preliminary concept for the campground calls for putting in a long access road off Route 1 so that the guest sites would be both away from the highway and from neighbors, he said. Each treehouse would be small, with only 300 to 500 square feet of space, and would have roughly 3 acres of woods around it.
“We want to make beautiful treehouses,” he said. “Our idea is to offer some solitude and quiet among the trees.”
Stone said they don’t yet have final designs for the treehouses, and likely will make decisions on how to build them based upon feedback from the city. Some might be entirely supported by trees, some might sit on tall posts, and some may do both. He said they anticipate building them in various styles, some more rustic than others.
If the campground eventually is approved, and if it is successful, the partners might add a couple of more sites sometime later on. Or, they may decide to open another high-end campground somewhere not too far away.
“We’re not looking to go huge,” Stone said.
The city planning board was expected to meet Wednesday to review a sketch plan for the campground and to give the developers feedback on what sort of standards they likely will have to meet to get approval. The partners then would have to draft more detailed plans that meet city code requirements and later submit those to the planning board in order to get a building permit for the campground.
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