ACADIA NATIONAL PARK – The beat of ancient drums and a chorus of nearly 100 people singing “America the Beautiful” helped celebrate the centennial of the park in a “Gift of Acadia” event at Jordan Pond House here on Saturday, Aug. 27.
With a bald eagle soaring overhead, kayakers paddling in the distance and hikers hitting the nearby trails, more than 400 people turned out to hear all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation and others wax poetic on how much Acadia means to the people of Mount Desert Island, the state of Maine and the nation.
Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider welcomed the crowd, thanking the many volunteers and park employees present for their service. As it has taken thousands of people over the years to keep Acadia strong, so too will it need continued help in the future, he noted. “I hope everyone here will be part of the conversation for the next 100 years,” he said. He also praised the work of the Acadia Centennial Task Force’s chairmen, Jack Russell of Mount Desert and Cookie Horner of Bar Harbor.
In honor of the park’s ties to Native Americans, who lived in the area long before European settlements, the festivities opened with a performance by the Burnurwurbskek Singers and drummers of the Penobscot Nation. The Centennial Chorus, comprised of nearly 90 area singers under the direction of George Emlen, then performed the Woody Guthrie folk music classic, “This Land is Your Land.”
Mike Reynolds, deputy director of the National Park Service, addressed the crowd, noting that Acadia was declared a national monument before the National Park Service was created. “You beat us by a month,” he joked.
Reynolds thanked the audience for being champions of Acadia. “So many of you here today have given of your hearts, your minds and your time,” he said. “Acadia can really show the world how we can really manage parks and places that are special around the world.”
Reynolds then helped administer the official oath to make more than three dozen children present Junior Rangers. Each child that had completed the requirements was given an official badge and special centennial Junior Ranger hat. Members of the congressional delegation and other dignitaries then mingled with the kids to offer personal congratulations.
In her remarks, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins recounted her first visit to the park and offered her thanks to people over the years who have worked hard to keep Acadia beautiful. U.S. Sen. Angus King explained that many park visitors don’t know the names of those responsible for creating the park. And those of the future may not know the names of the people of today who protect it. “But like us, they will be grateful and will remember what we have done for them.”
While also recounting her connection to the park, especially while attending College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, 1st Congressional District Rep. Chellie Pingree also commented on the designation last week of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Northern Maine. “I was very proud to see President Obama designate a second National Monument in Maine history,” she said. “It will offer an incredible economic boost for the Katahdin Region.”
Rep. Bruce Poliquin, from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, told the crowd that Acadia is one of “the jewels of our great state.” He said the park’s economic contributions should be recognized as well. “Quality of life includes a paycheck,” he said. “That is another reason Acadia is so important.”
Poliquin thanked the Rockefeller family for its continuing contributions to keeping the park strong.
In his remarks, David Rockefeller Jr., whose grandfather John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped create the park and fund numerous improvements such as the carriage roads, praised the work of everyone who played a part in the last 100 years and the ongoing work of Friends of Acadia. “I am so proud of Acadia National Park and the people who helped create it and protect it, he said. He cited the contributions of his own father, David Rockefeller Sr., as well. “He is the only person, at 101, older than Acadia itself,” he noted. “I am pleased to report that they are both in excellent condition … . All of my family are proud to call this place home.”
During the ceremonies, Reynolds and Schneider unveiled a newly minted bronze plaque honoring John D. Rockefeller Jr. In part it states “This quiet, dedicated conservationist gave generously of his time, wisdom and resources to help establish this park and others for the physical, cultural and spiritual benefit of the American people.”
Family patriarch David Rockefeller Sr., along with David Jr. and more than 20 family members, accepted the plaque, which will be installed in the place of an earlier one that was damaged more than 40 years ago. Funds for the replacement were collected by the Bar Harbor Historical Society from numerous individuals, as well as Friends of Acadia, the MDI Historical Society and the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations.
Also at the event, Reynolds presented the National Park Service’s 2016 Director’s Partnership Award to Friends of Acadia (FOA) and the Centennial Task Force on behalf of NPS Director John Jarvis. The award, given annually, recognizes outstanding accomplishments or lifetime achievements carried out by national park partners across the nation.
In his remarks, FOA President David MacDonald noted that the yearlong centennial began with a traditional Down East Maine baked bean supper. “No other park celebrated its centennial this way,” he said.
MacDonald praised the support in the community for Acadia. The centennial effort has 14 signature sponsors and more than 440 official partners. “We are all part of one community. Republican and Democrat can all be here and find common ground,” he continued. “I’m very, very hopeful for the future of Acadia. And, we need all of you.”
With that bald eagle soaring overhead, the ceremonies concluded with the Centennial Singers, joined by the audience on the last verse, singing “America the Beautiful” with special lyrics authored by Noel Paul Stookey of Blue Hill.