By Tami Burke, Pine Tree Society
“They chose a good name and they have the pine trees to back it up.” That’s how Andrew Shultz, Landowner Outreach Forester for the Maine Forest Service, describes the Tree Farm at Pine Tree Camp.
Pine Tree Camp, a project of the Pine Tree Society, was selected by the Maine Tree Farm Committee as the state’s Outstanding Tree Farmer of the Year for 2016. The camp also has been nominated for the American Tree Farm System’s national award.
The camp is located in Rome on a mile of pristine North Pond shorefront and bordered by over a mile of Great Meadow Stream. It’s a place where people with disabilities have come to enjoy the Maine woods since 1945. The 285-acre facility is fully adapted to meet the special needs of campers. In this barrier-free setting they can hike accessible nature trails, swim, fish, sleep in a tent and climb into a fully accessible tree house – all designed for people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
“Pine Tree Camp gives people with disabilities a unique opportunity to experience the outdoors in a way that typically is not easily accessible to them,” said Noel Sullivan, president and CEO of Pine Tree Society. “We recognize that our beautiful, barrier-free campus is an incredible asset to our organization and we work hard to ensure that we are managing it properly.”
Although Pine Tree faced strong competition for this year’s award, the camp’s unique combination of managing timber value while enhancing recreational value is what set them apart.
“Pine Tree Camp’s mission is first and foremost serving the needs of their campers,” said Shultz, who nominated the camp for the award. “They didn’t have to have a long-term vision for managing their forest, but they did.”
Shultz, who is also a Tree Farm Inspector, has a long association with the camp. In 2005, prior to working for MFS, he wrote a comprehensive Forest Stewardship Plan for the woodlands, recommending many of the forestry activities that have since taken place.
As a result, they’ve harvested their woodlands in a way that allows campers to enjoy a trail system in a healthy forest that’s a habitat for creatures like deer and pine marten, which campers can have the thrill of seeing — perhaps for the first time in their lives.
“Owning and managing land in Maine is a heck of a responsibility and Pine Tree Society has done it right,” said Paul Jacques, the society’s board president, who has been volunteering at the camp since he was a teenager.
John Starrett, forester for Sappi North America, concurs. “They’re very deserving of this award,” he said. “The services Pine Tree Camp provides are unique and to have the backdrop of 285 acres to support that mission is rare. They could have been passively involved and just focused very narrowly on the needs of campers. They could have only had one vision, but they saw more.”
Starrett has been involved with Pine Tree Camp for 25 years. Through the 1990,s he oversaw a round of improvement harvests under the auspices of International Paper’s Landowner Assistance Program. He is now implementing the next phase of active management along with D.R. Pepper Wood Harvesting, an independent logging contractor from Fayette.
Early on, Pine Tree Society recognized the quality and diversity of the trees and the value they bring. They saw the long-term potential for the property and understood the importance of working with experienced foresters and loggers to fulfill the vision.
As a result, they not only set clearly defined goals and objectives but actively engaged professionals to give them guidance, which is the key to their success, Starrett said.
“If not for the quality of the loggers involved with the Camp, the property would not be what it is today,” he said. “Right from when they first purchased the land, they’ve worked with educated and experienced professionals each step of the way.”
Facilities manager Harvey Chesley, who has been with Pine Tree Camp since 1994, agrees.
“At the very start, the foresters we worked with had the idea to work with our name and make pine trees the centerpiece of our property,” Chesley said. “When you drive in on the road, there are stately pines on either side. That’s by design.”
Maintaining water quality is another important component of the camp’s forestry plan and involves managing roads and trails.
“The camp’s main access road pitches steeply towards the water’s edge, yet there is no run off into the pond,” Shultz said. “It speaks to the good forestry management of the camp that there is virtually no road or trail erosion and the excellent water quality of the pond and surrounding streams is maintained and protected.”
Looking ahead, Starrett’s hope is that Pine Tree Camp can sustain the long view forestry management plan the same way they have for the past 75 years.
“Not many landowners own 200-plus acres continuously for 75 years,” Starrett said. “This is a unique piece of Maine forest that spans generations and has the potential to keep doing so long into the future.”