GOULDSBORO — There’s no pool, no game room, no horseshoe pitch. There’s not even a bathhouse at the newest campground near Acadia National Park. But the site offers a few things that are hard to come by in the summer near a national park that draws three million visitors: privacy and silence.

Acadia East Campground, which opened July 1, is an unusual concept in a commercial campground. Though it’s located on Route 1, the site offers primitive campsites, spread out from one another that are meant to simulate the wilderness camping experience found in more remote areas. The result is neighboring campers can not be heard or seen as they typically are at other campgrounds.

There are six tent sites on the 8.8-acre campground, which is a 10-minute drive from Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Peninsula District. Next year four campsites will be added, and ultimately 30 sites will be offered.

Acadia East owners Tom Tash, Jason Ridley and Zach Pushard are from Winthrop. The campground is the first site offered by their new company, Pocket Parks Campgrounds, and they plan to open other wilderness-style campgrounds in Maine and across the country.

“Growing up in central Maine, I’ve always been into hunting and hiking,” said Ridley, 29. “Tom brought us the idea. But we all grew up going to campgrounds.”

Their goal is to open five wilderness-style campgrounds in the next five years, including sites near the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park. The ultimate dream is a wilderness-style campground near every major national park.


“This is the end goal for life,” said Ridley, who will travel in the fall to look at land for sale near the Grand Canyon.

Ryan August of Winthrop hikes through Acadia East Campground with his two children, Anna, center, and Jaxon, right, as they head out for a day of hiking at Acadia National Park. The August family has backpacked in Nova Scotia and so enjoyed the wilderness-style camping experience at Acadia East, where campsites are spread far apart.

Other commercial campgrounds offer wilderness-style campsites, including one north of Rangeley. The same type of experience also can be found at some state and national parks.

But for a commercial campground near a busy area – such as along Route 1 – to exclusively offer the wilderness-camping experience is unusual, said Kathy Dyer, executive director of the 192-member Maine Campground Owners Association.

“Especially in the area it’s in, it’s unique,” Dyer said. “There are other parks up north that offer wilderness tent sites. I don’t think that will ever go away. But in that area it’s unusual because it’s a busy touristy area. The question would be, what are they getting for price?”

Others in the campground industry wonder if Acadia East can be profitable. Most U.S. campgrounds average 13 to 15 campsites per acre, according to the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds. Acadia East, at its height, would have three to four campsites per acre.

“It’s certainly unique,” said Jeff Sims, the association’s senior director of state relations. “There is a market for that type of camping. The question in my mind is, ‘How are they getting a return on their investment?’ If they have (four) tent sites per acre, how do you make a living on that? They need some source of revenue. You couldn’t charge enough to make a payment on the land purchase.”


For starters, none of the three has left his day job. Ridley and Pushard continue to work full time in landscaping, and Tash develops websites for small businesses. But by next year they all expect to draw a salary from Acadia East and plan to work full time on their Pocket Parks Campgrounds portfolio.

They also have kept the overhead low, Tash said. A campsite rental is $30 per night.

The Acadia East Campground land costs $17,000, Tash said, and building the campground cost $8,000. The trio did most of the work themselves. They even made the tent site signs from cedar trees from their land. The entrepreneurs raised $5,000 through crowdfunding with the help of 87 donations at kickstarter.com. They expect to pay off their investment in the campground by the end of next year.

“The main part of the business model is the low overhead,” Tash said. “The actual investment (in Acadia East) from here should be pretty minimal; it’s more time and energy now. And it will be full-steam ahead in Year Two.”

Those staying at the park last weekend, including a family of three, were experienced backpackers who had traveled alone in remote areas. They savored the quiet at Acadia East.

“It’s really cool, you’re out in the woods and there are not a lot of people here. It’s not like any campground I’ve been to. Usually tent sites are stacked on top of each other,” said Kyle Quinn of Springfield, Massachusetts.


“And it’s reasonably priced. Our site was a good distance from other campers at the top of the hill. There’s no cars and traffic waking you up at 7 a.m.”

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:


Twitter: FlemingPph

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