BAR HARBOR — Friends of Acadia has more than 5,000 members, for the first time in the nonprofit’s history, President and CEO David MacDonald announced at the organization’s annual meeting last Wednesday.
The meeting included awards and recognition of the past year’s accomplishments. In 2017, a total of 2,261 volunteers worked on behalf of Acadia through FOA programs.
Recently retired Acadia National Park Ranger Charlie Jacobi of Bar Harbor was given the Marianne Edwards Distinguished Service Award.
Jacobi was unable to attend the presentation but thanked FOA in a pre-recorded video. All who work to preserve and protect Acadia National Park “are heroes,” he said. “You are all my heroes.”
The organization’s net assets increased by over $8.5 million during the year. Of the $1,829,316 FOA grants, $1,573,934 was allocated for park projects and $255,382 for other grants, including $209,131 for the Island Explorer.
Staff and board members met with the Maine congressional delegation in Washington, submitted comments to the Department of the Interior about proposed fee increases and worked with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the delegation to ensure that traditional clamming and worming activities would be continued in the park.
If visitation goes up overall this season by just 3 percent, visitation numbers will reach 4.5 million, Superintendent Kevin Schneider said. How, he asked, can we sustainably protect Acadia?
Schneider also said he read every one of the 500 individual written comments submitted on the park’s draft transportation plan. He called the FOA-funded Summit Stewards who work on the Cadillac summit “ambassadors for the plan.”
With contributions from Canon USA, FOA hired the Atlantic Resource Co. to draft a wetland restoration project for the former septic field at Sieur de Monts.
FOA also funded the Acadia Youth Technology Team, which attracted 114,000 followers on Instagram, the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps, which worked with NPS staff on trail and carriage road projects, and six Acadia Teacher Fellows, who developed a seventh-grade curriculum on climate change. A recreation technician who monitored 15 traffic counters and mapped the condition of 43 bridges on 30 trails also is an FOA-funded position.
“We have been left an amazing asset here in Acadia National Park,” MacDonald said. We’ve inherited something that is priceless — it’s beyond compare. And yet we know that the challenges that lie ahead in the second century are profound — societal changes, climate changes. We are also aware that the park boundary doesn’t serve as an impenetrable wall of defense against a warming Gulf of Maine or a new plant species or a new insect species. We need to work collaboratively across boundaries throughout the community and engage a much wider audience.”
Calling outgoing board member Jack Russell a jack of all trades, Board Chairwoman Anne Green thanked him for co-chairing the centennial committee and year-long celebration and for his work on FOA’s strategic plan. Green also thanked two other outgoing board members: Linda Jensen for her work with FOA’s audit and finance committees and Brownie Carson for his work on resource protection and suggesting actions FOA can take to combat climate change. She welcomed new board members — Sam Coplon, Margaret Jeffreys and Paul Mayewski.
In her report, conservation chair Stephanie Clement listed a number of accomplishments in 2017 — only a few are mentioned here. FOA, the park and other partners continued the Wild Acadia collaboration — a collaboration that will restore ecological integrity to Acadia’s watersheds. In addition to funding Brian Henkel, the Wild Acadia coordinator, FOA funded an intern to monitor water quality, measure stream flow and monitor the Great Meadow wetland. Data show that the meadow is not responding well to precipitation events, an indication that the meadow has degraded.