The owners of Chewonki Campground and Wiscasset officials signed paperwork to finalize the town’s acquisition of an easement from the campground Wednesday, April 24, after four years of negotiations.
The “avigation” easement gives the town the right to the airspace above part of the campground, as well as the right to remove any obstructions in that space.
The town has long sought the easement to remove trees near the Wiscasset Municipal Airport.
Campground owners Ann Beck and Pamela Brackett signed on behalf of their Pam-Ann Chewonki LLC and received a $280,000 check from the town.
In addition to tree removal, the agreement addresses the cutting of the trees, noise, vibration, fumes, dust, and other effects from airport operations.
According to the easement, the campground will retain the right to use the land in the area of the avigation easement for campsites and sites for recreational vehicles.
The town must give two weeks of notice to the campground’s owners before going on the property to remove the trees. The town is responsible for any damage that occurs during tree removal and must restore any property it damages, such as landscaping and pavement.
After the signing of the agreement, the town immediately submitted a grant application to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Maine Department of Transportation for the cost of the avigation easement.
The FAA will pay 90%, the DOT 5%, and the town 5%.
The grant is expected to be awarded to the town by September, according to Janice Blane, a senior aviation planner with Stantec Consulting Services Inc.
The town hired Stantec in 2015 to begin negotiations with the campground.
The next step in the process will come in October, when the town will submit a second grant application to pay for tree removal. Blane said tree removal could begin in 2020.
During negotiations with the campground, the Wiscasset Board of Selectmen agreed to ask voters to expand the campground’s current septic system easement over town property abutting the campground.
The owners of the campground initially resisted the town’s efforts to acquire the avigation easement, expressing concern about the financial impact to the campground. They have said the tree removal will impact several campsites, which will lose the shade and privacy the trees afford.
The town, meanwhile, risked the loss of FAA funds and could have had to repay the FAA for more than 20 years of grants, worth millions of dollars, if the airport was forced to close due to safety issues. The FAA considers the tree obstruction a high-priority safety issue, according to Blane.
Chewonki Campground and the Wiscasset Municipal Airport both opened in 1961 on Chewonki Neck Road, off Route 144. The airport covers approximately 257 acres of land and has several other avigation easements.
Beck and Brackett’s parents opened Chewonki Campground on about 50 acres of land in 1961. Both parents died within six months of each other in 1969. Their teenage daughters took over the business and have carried on their parents’ legacy for 50 years.
Wiscasset interim Town Manager John O’Connell, who has been involved in the final negotiations, said recently, “It has been a long, drawn-out process. Both Wiscasset and Chewonki should be pleased that this has been completed.”
Airport Manager Richard Tetrev, in a telephone conversation Tuesday, April 30, said the avigation easement is wonderful for the airport and for the people of Wiscasset.
“We, at the airport, will make it a priority to be good neighbors, and do everything we can to make it pleasant for the guests at the Chewonki Campground,” Tetrev said.