May 28, 2023

Schoodic Navy base ships out Winter Harbor property belongs to Acadia today

WINTER HARBOR – After 67 years as a U.S. Navy outpost, the Schoodic Point base at the end of a scenic Hancock County peninsula reverts to Acadia National Park today.

The U.S. flag was to be lowered for the last time at sunset Sunday at the Schoodic Point Navy base, which was a center for eavesdropping on submarines during World War II.

While the closure is a time of sadness for military and civilian personnel who will move on to other assignments, it offers opportunities for the reuse of the 100-acre, campuslike compound that is surrounded by Acadia.

One of the most talked-about proposals is transforming the base, which has townhouse apartments, a bowling alley, medical clinic, gymnasium and day care center, into a research and education facility.

Under that scenario, scientists could work in on-site laboratories and hold conferences, students could spend semesters in the field, and the public could attend classes and programs on topics from conservation to music and art.

But plans for the site haven’t been determined.

If the site turned into a research center, Acadia National Park would contract with a nonprofit organization that would help develop and manage the center with a variety of partners.

With the gradual pullout of the Navy, the population of Winter Harbor has been cut by more than half, from 1,200 to 550, and the enrollment in the local elementary school of 124 two years ago has dropped to 31.

“This has been one of the most unique base closures in the fact that pretty much most of the material gets transferred to the park,” said Cmdr. James Guest, who was one of 17 military personnel left on the base last week.

“With a normal closure, we would have been killing ourselves trying to get all the desks, barracks room furniture, all the beds – I mean, everything would have gone,” Guest said.

The community is seen by some as a potential home for families who have been priced out of the tourism-intensive Bar Harbor area, which is across Frenchman Bay from Schoodic. Some suggest connecting the two areas with a ferry.

John Kelly, a park resource planner who is working on a general management plan for the site, said about 80 individuals and organizations have expressed interest in being a part of a new research and education center.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science plans to assemble a national panel of experts who will examine what the site has to offer in the fall.

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