The RAF and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have signed an agreement allowing the RAF to manage recreational aviation use of the Red Pine airfield, located within TNC’s St John River Forest in northern Maine. RAF volunteers have worked to return the airstrip to a safe condition for backcountry use.
Red Pine, a remote 2,470-ft paved airfield lies along the St. John – or Wolastoq River – just a dozen miles from Quebec. It was originally built by the International Paper Company as a facility for forest management. The Nature Conservancy has owned the St. John River Forest since 1998, and manages the property to conserve biodiversity, provide wildlife habitat, and produce forest products. Most of the surrounding forest in the region is privately owned and continues to be managed for timber harvest.
In response to wide regional interest in reopening Red Pine, in September of 2009 John Nadeau of Massachusetts – the RAF’s first volunteer east of the Mississippi – initiated dialog with The Nature Conservancy’s Maine Field office. He requested consideration of restoration and maintenance of the airfield by volunteers, writing, “This airstrip is a wonderful resource for access to the area for forest management and fire suppression in addition to recreational flying.” RAF Maine Liaisons Andy Rowe and Steve Mason, and RAF supporter John Sowles re-ignited discussions with The Nature Conservancy, which have resulted in the agreement. In part, it states:
“Licensee (the RAF) has expertise in developing and maintaining airstrips and has adequate funding to improve and maintain the existing Airstrip and additional supporting appurtenances . . .”
“We’re excited that twelve years later, we have an agreement with The Nature Conservancy that will allow us to restore the Red Pine airstrip and allow recreational aviation use,” says Rowe.
“This success with The Nature Conservancy is an example of RAF’s role in building relationships for recreational aviation use on private lands,” Mason said, who pointed out that most of the recreational airfields in the East are privately owned.
This is the second formal agreement the RAF has with TNC. In 2014, the two organizations cooperated to build a new airfield above the King’s River in the Ozarks of Arkansas called Trigger Gap.
The North Maine Woods organization manages public access and maintains recreational facilities throughout the northern part of the state. “Steve and I intend to work closely with North Maine Woods,” Rowe said. “They are responsible for management of the campsite at the south end of the strip.” The License Agreement states that the RAF is responsible for the airfield and aircraft parking area at the northern end. Pilots and all visitors to Red Pine will be obligated to pay day-use and camping recreational fees to North Maine Woods.
Rowe claims good muskie fishing in the St. John River, colorful fall foliage, and access to good hunting from Red Pine. “Flying in saves hours of driving on logging roads,” he added. He thanks Bill Sylvester and Lisa Reese of the Maine Aeronautics Association and her husband, Steve Williams of the Seaplane Pilots Association, “who have been very helpful for over a decade,” he said. In addition to its value for recreational access to the upper St John River within the vast north Maine woods, maintenance of the airstrip by RAF will also support its availability for emergency services.
For information on Red Pine, see the Airfield Guide.
Submitted on June 30, 2022