- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2002

EUSTIS, Maine The mention of a Maine vacation home evokes visions of grand mansions overlooking white-capped waves crashing along a rocky coastline dotted with lighthouses.
In reality, a second home in Maine is most often a modest fishing or hunting camp deep in the woods.
Thanks to seaside cottages and woodsy camps, Maine leads the nation for the percentage of vacation homes, beating out sunny states like Florida and Arizona, according to figures from the 2000 census.
In Maine, 15.6 percent of all housing units 101,470 of 651,901 are for seasonal use, far ahead of the national rate of 3.1 percent. Vermont is second and New Hampshire third on a percentage basis, followed by Alaska.
Florida came in sixth place but had the highest number of vacation homes by far, at 482,944.
The rich and famous have long flocked to Maine's shores. President Bush's family has summered in Kennebunkport since the early 1900s, and the Rockefeller clan has roots in the Bar Harbor area. More recently, John Travolta and Martha Stewart have set up summer homes here.
But mansions don't account for the bulk of the state's vacation homes. A large portion are modest "camps," as Mainers call them.
Some are simple, like the old barn that Evie Brackett and her husband bought for $600 in 1971 and moved across the road. Still barn-like on the outside, it retains a rustic feel inside, even though it has electricity and insulation.
The hay loft has been turned into two bedrooms, and roughhewn planks form the walls of the building. A 55-gallon oil drum has been converted into a wood stove, though Mrs. Brackett also has a small oven and stove.
The retired secretary uses bottled water for drinking and cooking but uses a spring for washing. There's an outhouse, as well.
"There's no view or anything. I just like it a home away from home, you know?" said Mrs. Brackett of Farmington.
Piscataquis and Franklin counties, both of which are miles from the ocean, have the highest proportion of seasonal homes in Maine, but the seaside has its share. In some small coastal communities, vacation homes account for more than a third of all the housing.
Experts say Maine's proximity to large population centers in the Northeast is a factor in the high percentage of seasonal homes. Inland property is also cheap enough that many Mainers own second homes even though the state has the lowest median household income in New England. The median value of a house in Maine is $98,700.
And because the state is sparsely populated Maine has fewer residents than the Bronx there's a fair amount of property.
In Eustis, vacation home owners are lured by snowmobile trails and the Sugarloaf USA ski resort. Others take to the Appalachian Trail or go fishing, hunting or boating. Prices start out at about $40,000 and can go as high as $400,000, said Wendy Glenn, owner of Maine West Properties.
Ralph and Dori Gallagher of Windham sought something in between.
Their two-bedroom camp has plumbing, gas heat, electricity and the usual kitchen appliances. The telephone is for emergencies; a TV and VCR are concessions to their children.

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