The new owners of the Desert of Maine – a landmark attraction in Freeport – are promising big changes that they say will seek to build on the legacy of previous owners.

Mela and Doug Heestand of Freeport said they purchased the 40-acre property from Gary and Ginger Currens on Wednesday. The Currens purchased the property in 2004.

“The new owners are planning a renovation of all facets of the Desert of Maine, as well as a marketing reboot that aims to draw increasing numbers of out-of-town visitors to the campground and desert tours. But more important to the Heestands is their goal of creating a place that locals will enjoy and take pride in for many years to come,” the new owners said in a press release.

The Desert of Maine was listed for $725,000 by Northeast Campground Brokers. The Heestands are not disclosing the sale price.

Mela Heestand said that she and her husband moved to Freeport about 18 months ago from Massachusetts. Their sons, Nicky and William, told them about the Desert of Maine, which they discovered during a hike in the woods.

“Our kids discovered this incredible property,” Heestand said during an interview Thursday night. “We decided we wanted to become the stewards of this land. Its history is so rich and interesting. We want to continue its legacy.”


Located two miles west of Interstate 295 in Freeport, the Desert of Maine at 95 Desert Road features a campground, a gift shop, an old barn, and lots of dunes.

Although the rolling dunes mimic a landscape you’d see out West, the Desert of Maine is not considered a true desert because it receives too much rainfall.

And the dunes are technically not sand either; they’re glacial silt that was exposed because of poor crop rotation and overgrazing by sheep when the property was operated as a farm in the 1800s. Henry Goldrup bought the abandoned property for $300 in 1919 and opened it as a tourist attraction six years later.

The Heestands want to expand the Desert of Maine’s family friendly activities such as sand art projects, gemstone hunts and the mining sluice.

When the Desert of Maine opens May 15, Freeport residents will be able to get in for free. The admission fee waiver will expire after the season ends on Oct. 15.

“We are really excited,” said Mela Heestand, who has taught as a professor at Merrimack College. “I think it is a place that has always been special. We want people who visit to feel welcome.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: