By Anne Kozak
BAR HARBOR — Despite the five-week government shutdown earlier this year, insufficient funding and traffic issues over the Fourth of July, Acadia National Park is positively addressing issues and moving toward solutions.
That was the message from Friends of Acadia Board Chair Anne Green, President David MacDonald, Conservation Director Stephanie Clement and Acadia superintendent Kevin Schneider at last week’s annual meeting of the nonprofit that supports the park.
The four rescues on the Fourth of July and the need to close many portions of the park that weekend underscore the fact that that, if the visitor experience and natural and cultural resources are to be protected, implementing the transportation plan released this spring is pivotal, said Schneider.
Both Green and Schneider noted the importance of MacDonald’s becoming president of the national Friends Alliance. His election to that role reflects how highly respected MacDonald and FOA are among friends’ groups nationally, but also recognizes the multiple initiatives FOA has successfully undertaken to ensure the success of Acadia, Green said.
MacDonald thanked Green for agreeing to lead FOA for another two years and acknowledged the work of the 25 board members.
He attributed the accomplishments of the past year to an “amazing,” supportive staff and the commitment of FOA’s partners.
The board and staff have developed a strategic plan to guide the organization for the next 5-10 years, he said, a plan that depends on all its members if FOA is to continue to be innovative and collaborative in tackling Acadia’s challenges.
Grants and program support increased from $1,829,316 in 2017 to $2,241,857 in 2018. Of this total, $2,026,597 supported programs in Acadia. Of the $215,260 in grants to community projects, $199,136 was allocated to the Island Explorer, which last year transported 624,076 passengers.
In 2018, the park and other partners continued the Wild Acadia collaboration, Clement said in her report, restoring ecological integrity to the Cromwell Brook watershed. The group is now beginning work on the Marshall Brook watershed.
With support from FOA, Canon U.S.A. and the park service, volunteers and staff under the leadership of park biologist Jesse Wheeler surveyed 1,112 acres for invasive plants and managed 26 high priority invasive plant species at 91 sites.
With funding from FOA and others, park staff repaired winter damage on carriage roads, restored four historic vistas and worked with volunteers and the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps to remove stones, vegetation and debris from drains along the carriage roads.
In addition to grooming carriage roads for cross-country skiing, more than 1,400 other volunteers contributed 9,474 hours to help maintain trails and carriage roads.
In its effort to cultivate “tomorrow’s stewards,” FOA expanded its efforts to foster appreciation of nature and particularly of Acadia National Park. These programs included a workshop for teachers to develop curricula for outdoor classrooms in Tremont, Southwest Harbor, Trenton and Swan’s Island, and transportation grants that allowed 588 students to participate in the Schoodic Educational Adventure, an overnight residential program.
FOA’s advocacy work included playing a key role in fostering discussion and understanding of the park’s transportation plan, ensuring that Maine remains part of an interstate partnership to reduce ground-level ozone and working with the Congressional delegation and others to highlight the park’s $65 million backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
Greene, MacDonald and Schneider all thanked outgoing board members Cookie Horner, Jan Karst and Meredith Moriarty for their years of service and welcomed two new board members, Julie Banzhaf-Stone and David Katona.
FOA’s Public Service Award went to Alan Farnsworth, who retires this fall after 28 years working on Acadia’s carriage roads. The Conservation Colleague Award went to the Acadia Corporation which donates 2 percent of its sales from the Bar Harbor shops. The Excellence in Volunteerism Award was given to the volunteers who maintain the Wild Gardens of Acadia at Sieur de Monts.
The Marianne Edwards Distinguished Service Award went to Judy Hazen Connery and Bruce Connery for their work in protecting Acadia’s natural and cultural resources. The first woman biologist at Acadia, Judy began working in 1984 and retired in May; Bruce began working in the park in 1993 and retired early this winter.