AUBURN — Karen and John Bolduc have an idea for a culinary-focused, high-end treehouse glampground on 100 acres, with spiral stairs snaking around the tree and a treehouse chicken coop with eggs that roll right into the high-rise kitchen window.

Now, where to put it.

After looking privately for months with limited luck, the Auburn couple decided to go public with their idea last week hoping someone might know of just the right piece of property that fits their wish list.

Ideally, Karen Bolduc said, they’d like to build out in 2019 and open in early 2020. They see attracting international visitors year round to the likely $500-plus a night treehouse glamping (glamorous camping) experience.

She’s an organic farmer who two years ago experimented with offering Maine-grown meal kits. He’s a builder, and they both had treehouses as kids.

“It just all came together,” Karen Bolduc said. “It just seemed like a natural fit, a way to reach a higher-earning demographic to offer the meal kit to and just, frankly, it sounds like a lot of fun.”

Their 10-acre South Auburn Organic Farm isn’t large enough for what they’re forecasting is a $1.5 million project, she said. Plus, it’s mostly pasture.

They’re looking, ideally, for 100 acres or more, 2,000 feet of brook frontage, a trail system, nearby natural attractions and old-growth forest somewhere within a half-hour drive of their home.

Since September, they’ve scoured real estate listings and studied property maps to cold-call owners.

“We’ve got four or five balls in the air right now with possibilities and people who are like, ‘Well, maybe,’” said Bolduc. “Don’t get me wrong, many people were just like, ‘No, all set, thanks.’”

In going public with their search, “maybe somebody will go, ‘Wow, my mom is sitting on a piece of land like that and she’s wondered what to do with it,’” Bolduc said.

The project has a Facebook page, John & Karen’s Maine Glampground Evolution, but not yet a name.

She’s spent months doing her global glamping homework.

“There’s tepees, there’s hobbit houses, there’s refurbished campers — if you can dream it, it’s a structure in the glamping world,” Bolduc said. “There are actually other culinary-focused treehouse glampgrounds in the world right now, so I’m poring over their websites and seeing what they’re up to,” and calculating how to compete.

A number of places that advertise themselves as treehouse glampgrounds, she said, are actually elevated cabins a few feet off the ground that might use a tree as one of four posts holding them up.

She and John plan actual treehouses, 6 to 10 feet in the air, primarily suspended by trees, with room for wood stoves, fully equipped kitchens with gas stoves, delivered gourmet ingredients and chicken neighbors.

“Everybody loves a fresh egg, they’re always a hit, (so) how could we maximize that idea of the freshest possible egg?” Bolduc said. “We’ve let our imaginations run wild with all of the fun possibilities and that was one that came up.”

Bathrooms would likely be composting toilets not too far from the trees.

Most of the treehouses would be sized for two people, a few for families. They’d like to build 15 units over five to 10 years, spread around the property for privacy. Some might be less high-end yurts for around $200 a night with fewer amenities and without meals.

She said they likely have a venture capitalist lined up for the land purchase but may seek outside financing for the rest.

“I’m starting to realize it is a little bit of a unicorn, what we’re looking for,” Bolduc said. “You would think that there might be lots of sites like this. I’m hoping that’s what we find, that maybe we’ll get a flood of responses now that we’ve put it out there.”

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Karen Bolduc, her husband, John, and their children Elovie, 3, and Rhiordan, 2. The Bolducs, of Auburn, are in the early stages of trying to site a high-end treehouse glampground somewhere in Androscoggin or Cumberland county. (Submitted photo)


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