BRUNSWICK – A group trying to establish a world-class park and garden on the site of the Brunswick Naval Air Station fears that there may not be enough available land to accommodate the plan.

Though the Navy base, which has been renamed Brunswick Landing, encompasses more than 3,000 acres, the group is worried that the park and gardens may be pushed aside by competing interests.

There are buildings and runways on the site, and land is reserved for Bowdoin College and the town of Brunswick.

Further complicating the effort is an objection raised in June by the Federal Aviation Administration, advising against the group’s preferred location: the golf course at the southern end of the runways.

Steven Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, informed the group in October that the FAA “has serious concerns” about developing a garden in that area. The authority is overseeing redevelopment of the Navy base.

Levesque said having potentially large numbers of people under the flight path and an abundance of trees and plants that could attract large numbers of birds — raising the possibility of bird strikes — is unacceptable to the FAA. Supporters expect the park and garden to attract 1 million visitors a year.

The base’s two runways will be used on a limited basis by private aircraft once the base closes in May.

Members of the Brunswick Park and Gardens project recently mailed a letter to 1,600 supporters in the Brunswick area urging them to write letters to local newspapers and to fill out postcards stating their support for the 250-acre spread.

“Over the past six years, we have been patiently awaiting the day when the land at the soon-to-be-closed naval air station would be made available for the development of a world-class park and garden,” the letter says. “The garden-park would be an oasis for all of us, while providing employment for many As closure nears and because of competing demands for property on the base, we now find our options for acquiring appropriate land for the park and gardens diminishing.”

The letter says there must be “an upswelling of support so that those making decisions” understand that the project is a priority.

Gary Anderson of Bath received one of the letters. He and his wife have visited gardens around the country and believe that a garden on such a scale would benefit the region.

“It’s a truly missed opportunity if they don’t go forward with this,” Anderson said. “It would bring both significant economic benefit to the region and vastly improve our quality of life. It would be as if Brunswick could acquire a recreational asset rivaling Popham Beach or Reid State Park.”

Herschel Sternlieb of Brunswick, president of the nonprofit Brunswick Park and Gardens, and several supporters reviewed their business plan with The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram last week. Sternlieb founded the organization in 2004.

Sternlieb said the goal is to create something that would equal or surpass the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and the Dutch tulip garden in Keukenhof, Holland.

In the spring, the gardens would be ablaze with irises and tulips and have miles of walking trails lined with azaleas, rhododendrons, lilacs and other blossoming shrubs, the business plan says. There would also be opportunities for hiking, apple picking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sleigh and buggy rides, and maple sugaring.

Sternlieb said the gardens would attract visitors from all over the world. His group believes the park and gardens, in combination with the Bowdoin Music Festival, the Maine State Music Theatre and the Maine Maritime Museum, would transform Brunswick into a destination vacation place.

In 10 years, the park and gardens would be attracting 1 million visitors a year, and in 20 years more than 2 million people annually, the group estimates. Sternlieb said those numbers are realistic, considering gardening’s popularity.

Brunswick Park and Gardens’ business plan calls for more than 200 year-round jobs and 400 seasonal positions.

Revenue would be generated through parking and entry fees, commissions on food and retail items sold by merchants. There would be a community garden, a living legacy forest, a welcome center, a pavilion, a restaurant and classrooms.

Because FAA concerns put much of the Navy base’s golf course land off-limits, Levesque advised Brunswick Park and Gardens to contact Bowdoin College and the town to discuss access to their lands.

Jeff Jordan, the redevelopment authority’s deputy director, said the federal government has approved setting aside more than 165 acres for the college and 115 acres for the town.

Jordan said Bowdoin must use the land for educational purposes. The college has indicated that it plans to build a dormitory, a maintenance facility and athletic fields on the land.

Scott Hood, spokesman for Bowdoin, would not comment on specifics, saying only, “We’re not working with the garden folks. We’ve been focused on acquiring the land for Bowdoin College.”

Town officials could not be reached, but their share of the land must be preserved as open space.

Brunswick Park and Gardens says it won’t give up on the dream. Its members will collect the postcards of support and present them to town officials and the redevelopment authority’s governing board.

“The park and gardens are going to benefit the entire area,” said Bob Dale, one of the project’s supporters. “It’s not going away.”

For more information about the project, go to www.brunswickparkandgardens.org.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]