BAR HARBOR — In his opening remarks at Friends of Acadia’s annual meeting last week, outgoing board Chair Ed Samek credited the effectiveness of Friends of Acadia’s initiatives to a team effort and called 2016 – Acadia’s centennial and FOA’s 30th anniversary – the best of times.
While some were concerned that nothing could match the centennial year, Samek, incoming Chair Anne Green, FOA President David MacDonald and Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider all said that in the first year of Acadia’s second century, the park was moving forward in addressing issues. With funds from the successful $25 million second century fund, FOA is poised to help protect and maintain Acadia’s resources, bring young people into the park and ensure a quality visitor experience.
In fiscal 2016, FOA’s net assets increased by over $5 million. FOA grants to the park for projects ranging from a cultural landscape study of Old Farm (park co-founder George Dorr’s residence), carriage road and trail maintenance, Wild Acadia natural resource initiatives, volunteer programs, Wild Gardens of Acadia, Ridge Runners, youth conservation corps, a Sand Beach water station, winter trail maintenance and youth technology team totaled $1,491,422.
In addition, FOA awarded grants of almost $670,000 to nonpark initiatives, including $250,000 to land acquisition and $200,000 to the Island Explorer.
Schneider in his remarks noted that the historic roads in Acadia were not designed to support the number of vehicles and people that came to Acadia in 2016. Over the July 4 weekend this year, the park shut down the Cadillac Mountain Road multiple times. The Island Explorer buses were so full that passengers had to be left behind, and for the first time, the park closed the parking lot at Schoodic.
In comments that the park has received about the transportation plan, a significant number asked the park not to spoil the visitor experience at Acadia. Schneider said the transportation plan should be ready by the end of the year and thanked all those who have commented and Friends of Acadia for its support in developing the plan.
In her report, conservation Chair Stephanie Clement listed a number of accomplishments in 2016 – only a few are mentioned here. There were 453 official partners of the centennial, including 89 who sold centennial products that garnered just over $50,000 for FOA. More than 350 events were held throughout Maine, including one where those attending signed a time capsule that will be opened in 2116. The capsule is housed in the lobby of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and includes pictures, programs and a special centennial edition of the Islander. Centennial celebrations were organized by two FOA trustees – Cookie Horner and Jack Russell.
FOA, the park and other partners ramped up work under the Wild Acadia initiative to make Acadia’s resources more resilient to the effects of climate change. With support from Canon USA, FOA funded water quality monitoring at Jordan Pond and removal of 24 invasive species on 70 sites.
The Island Explorer had another record year, carrying 575,397 passengers. To emphasize the role the Explorer plays in keeping cars off the road and eliminating many pollutants, Clement used the analogy of a traffic jam, and each year since 1999, the traffic jam increases. This year, it would extend down the entire east coast across the southwest and up the west coast to Muir Woods National Monument in California.
More than 2,661 volunteers worked to maintain park trails and carriage road; they cleared drainage and made minor repairs to 16 trails and built a gentler grade on a trail at Schoodic Woods. On Earth Day, more than 300 volunteers picked up 476 bags of trash on 150 miles of roads on Mount Desert Island and in Trenton.
In her remarks, Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of the National Parks and Conservation Association, called FOA the gold standard of Friends groups, for “they understand what it takes to advocate for and fund national parks.”
In addition to giving outgoing Chair Samek the Marianne Edwards award for distinguished public service, Michael Hays was recognized with the excellence in volunteerism award and Ron Epp, the author of the George Dorr biography, with the Acadia preservation award.