BAR HARBOR — For thousands of years before there was an Acadia National Park, its lands and waters were part of the homeland of the indigenous Wabanaki people, David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, made a point of acknowledging at the start of FOA’s annual meeting last Wednesday.
“I strongly believe that greater awareness and understanding of the Wabanaki cultures, their traditions, their history here will only strengthen the work we do to preserve and protect this place and other places around the state,” he said.
“I also believe that greater access for the Wabanaki people to Acadia National Park and other conservation lands will strengthen that work. Friends of Acadia truly aspires to do more in this regard and to be a resource and a partner going forward.”
MacDonald and Stephanie Clement, FOA’s director of conservation, highlighted the organization’s work and accomplishments during the past year which, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was like no other.
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider praised the resilience and dedication of the park staff in the face of unprecedented challenges.
“Through this terrible pandemic, we haven’t had a single documented COVID case among our staff of 80 year-round employees and 150 seasonals, which is really a testament to the incredible work our team has done in making sure they could do their work safely,” he said.
“One of the most difficult decisions I made last year was having to suspend our critical Island Explorer bus service here. I’m happy to say that it’s back up and running this year, albeit with limited routes; it is helping to relieve congestion in the park this summer. Next year it will be fully restored, and we look forward to expanding the Island Explorer even beyond its normal level of service.
“The pandemic was a setback in eliminating large motorcoaches in the park, but we are looking forward to getting that back on track in the coming year,” Schneider said. “We also will look at expanding the parking reservation system to Jordan Pond, possibly the Bass Harbor Head Light and other areas in Acadia, as well as.”
Jack Kelley, the incoming chairman of the FOA board, said the organization will be working in the coming year and beyond to support the park in a number of areas. Among those, he said, are “helping to solve the housing shortage for part-time and full-time employees of the park, looking at expansion of the [timed entry] reservation system, which has been very successfully started this year…and being involved in the issue of traffic management at the Bass Harbor Head Light and on the entire island.”
MacDonald presented FOA’s Outstanding Public Service Award, which typically is given to an Acadia employee, to Deputy Superintendent Mike Madell, who will retire at the end of this month.
The Marion Edwards Award, named for a founding FOA board member, was presented to Anne Green, who, after four years, is stepping down as board chairman.
More than 100 people “attended” the hour-long virtual annual meeting, which was plagued throughout by audio and video problems. A glitch-free recording of the meeting can be found on FOA’s Facebook page.