ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A major initiative to bring local foods to Jordan Pond House, an “eco-store” gift shop at Cadillac Mountain and a strong focus on native Maine art are all expected at Acadia National Park over the coming decade as New Mexico-based Ortega Family Enterprises, doing business as Dawnland, LLC, takes over as the new park concessioner.
A review of Dawnland’s contract with the National Park Service, signed this spring, highlights many changes on the horizon as Acadia gets its first new concessioner since opening 85 years ago.
The massive contract covers all aspects of Acadia concessions, from employee housing to environmental initiatives to specific menu requirements for the Jordan Pond House. While return visitors to Acadia will notice much of the same concession services, there are some changes afoot that have been designed to innovate, upgrade and improve the products that are on offer.
The local foods initiative is ambitious and impressive, at least on paper. By year 10 of the contract, and in some cases much sooner, Dawnland aims to source 100 percent of dairy, cheese and seafood from Maine. Within the same time frame, they are aiming to buy 55 percent of their meat from Maine and 45 percent from New England, while sourcing 75 percent of their produce from Maine and 25 percent from New England.
Other changes on tap for Jordan Pond House include grab-and-go food offerings and a healthy options menu. Both of these innovations were set as requirements by the NPS. Required menu items include those that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, low-calorie and dairy-free, while half of the to-go items must meet “healthy choice” standards.
Ortega family vice-president Shane Ortega said that these additions to the menu will by no means replace traditional fare at Jordan Pond House, and that popovers and clam chowder remain on the menu.
Tribal initiatives, especially those revolving around the arts, are a big part of the innovations Dawnland plans to bring to their work. The company has proposed and agreed to commit at least $175,000 in one-time costs and $23,000 annually to tribal partnership events and programs, along with $2,000 in annual tribal art scholarships and $1,000 annually in startup costs for newer Maine tribal artists.
The re-working of the Cadillac Mountain gift shop into an “eco-store” is something that, if successful, Ortega believes could “really push us over the edge and put us on the map in this part of the country.”
Under the guidelines set forth in the contract, all products will be displayed in 100 percent-recycled packaging or no packaging, and have at least one of the following qualities: recycled (50-100 percent postconsumer); salvaged/reclaimed; reusable replacement for standard throw-away item; recyclable (with instructions); biodegradable/compostable; renewably grown or naturally occurring; or educates about sustainability.
At least 50 percent of the merchandise in the store is supposed to meet the recycled/reclaimed standard in year one, with this number increasing to 65 percent by year 10. At least three new sustainable lines are to be added to the merchandise each year.
Because of legal challenges to the Dawnland contract with NPS, Ortega had just a matter of weeks to prepare for the season this year, a fact which Ortega says he wants people to keep in mind when taking a look at some of the things the company has promised to do. In many cases, they will not meet their goals this year because of the late contract and relatively little time to prepare, he said. However, Ortega predicts that all of the company’s plans for Acadia will be firmly on track once they have a full season and full winter under their belt.