FREEPORT (NEWS CENTER Maine) —A glacial silt plot in southern Maine bearing striking resemblance to a desert, a former farm that has attracted thousands of visitors for nearly a century, has been sold to a local couple with big aspirations of revitalization.
Freeport residents Mela and Doug Heestand announced Thursday they had purchased the Desert of Maine on Dec. 5 from Gary and Ginger Currens, who had previously owned the landmark for 15 years.
The Tuttle family once farmed the land until the early 1800s when poor crop rotation and overgrazing exposed the glacial silt underneath the topsoil. In 1925, it became a tourist attraction.
The Heestands said they plan not only to renovate all facets of the Desert of Maine and reboot marketing efforts to increase the number of out-of-town visitors but also to create a place that locals will enjoy and take pride in for many years to come.
"We want families in the area to think of the Desert of Maine as a place they can come to spend the day," the couple said. "Walking the trails, learning about history or just taking in the view."
A 235-year-old barn on the property — proving its ex-farming days did at one time exist — has operated as the site's museum, an integral part of the tour which tells the story of the Tuttles. The Heestands said they plan to hire timber framer Arron Sturgis to restore the historic barn so it can in addition to history lessons serve as a venue for music and theater.
The Heestands also said they plan to expand and enhance the family-friendly activities that exist, such as the sand art projects, gemstone hunts, and mining sluice, and hope to build on the location's legacy and embrace communities of artists, history lovers and camping enthusiasts.
As part of the owners' outreach plan, admission to the Desert of Maine and tour will be free to Freeport residents during the next spring/summer season, which begins May 15, 2019.
PHOTOS | Desert of Maine