Stefan Scarks and Travis Bullard are planning a 21-site campground on the southern half of House Island, a small island that helped to protect Portland Harbor in the 1800s. Courtesy / Jeremy Weir, Rodeonexis

PORTLAND — Stefan Scarks and Travis Bullard have working for two years on a plan to develop the southern half of House Island into a 21-site seasonal campground.

That plan is now ready, Bullard said, and he hopes to have the site plan reviewed by the Planning Board by the end of this year. The goal is to have the campground open in spring 2021.

“This is the culmination of years of permitting,” ” said Bullard a co-principal, along with Scarks, of Fortland Holdings, which owns the section of the island where the campground is proposed. “This is the final permit we need to move forward.”

The 21 camping sites on the 16-acre property will have “incredible ocean views,” he said. A  2,000-square-foot community building would house a common kitchen, dining room and bathrooms. The campground would be open May to October.

Because the city listed the island as a historic preservation zone in 2015, Fortland’s plan had to get a certificate of appropriateness approval from the city’s Historic Preservation Board, which it did in February 2018. That approval has been extended several times, most recently by Historic Preservation Manager Deb Andrews in January 2020.

The 24-acre island in Portland Harbor has a long history. Like other Casco Bay islands, it likely was inhabited by Native Americans. It may have been occupied by European settlers as early as the 1620s and, according to Greater Portland Landmarks, “protected Portland Harbor from the War of 1812 through the Civil War.” Fort Scammel, on the southern end, was the only seaside fort that saw action in the War of 1812 when it exchanged gunfire with the British.

Three residential-scale buildings on the northern half of House Island were known as “the Ellis Island of the North,” serving as a federal immigration quarantine station from 1907-1937.  A local family, who saved the fort from demolition, stewarded the island for nearly 60 years until it was listed for sale in 2012,” according to Greater Portland Landmarks.

The northern end of House Island is privately owned by a company that rents out the former immigration buildings as luxury lodging and for events.

The goal, Bullard said is to honor the island’s history.

‘The history is so rich, so deep and so impressive,” he said.

Not only will campers have the opportunity to sleep in the perimeter of an 1800s fort, Bullard said there will be an informational kiosk about the island’s history, as well as history and ecological tours and educational opportunities.

“Our mission has always been the preserve, protect and celebrate this incredible island resource. That has been our core design driver this entire time,” Bullard said.

Bullard said the plan has received “phenomenal support” from the public this far.

Noah Gordon, who owns the northern section of the island, said is not ready to share his thoughts publicly about the Fortland plans, but is “interested in what the city has to say about the project.”

“This island is so well known, but has been off-limits to the public for so long,” Bullard said. “People are really excited to see something happening out there.”

Comments are not available on this story.