SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Paul Haertel, superintendent of Acadia National Park from 1994 to 2002 and a resident of Southwest Harbor for the past 28 years, died June 5. He was 81.
“While superintendent of Acadia, Paul led the establishment of the Island Explorer bus system, the conversion of the U.S. Navy base on the Schoodic Peninsula into a park research and learning center and the acquisition of numerous other parcels of land and conservation easements,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.
“Paul helped lead the first endowment of a hiking trail system in a national park through Friends of Acadia’s Acadia Trails Forever Campaign.
“He was a ‘ranger’s ranger.’ A stalwart lover of wild places, he served as ranger pilot in Alaska, was an avid birder and naturalist and a skilled outdoorsman – be it skiing, hiking, or paddling. He was the kind of person who believed in people, helping mentor a generation of park employees.
Paul also invested the time in strengthening relationships with Acadia’s [neighboring] communities, recognizing this important symbiotic relationship.”
Stephanie Clement, interim president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said of Haertel, “Paul was a wonderful leader and an outstanding partner to Friends of Acadia. He had a way of making everyone feel invested in the future of the park.
“Friends of Acadia could not have completed the campaigns to rehabilitate and preserve Acadia’s trails and carriage roads without him. I am grateful for the time we had with him as a friend and as the superintendent of Acadia.”
Haertel had a 41-year career in the National Park Service, working in a dozen park service units, mostly in the in the West, before coming to Acadia. In 1977, he was named chief of operations for the five National Park Service units in Alaska. He was also superintendent at both Kenai Fjords and Clark Lake national parks, and for the second half of his 17 years in Alaska, he was associate regional director for the park service.
Haertel was a lifelong conservationist and an avid birder, along with his wife, Margot, who survives him.
After retiring, he joined the board of the Schoodic Education and Research Center. He also served on the boards of the Frenchman Bay Conservancy and Maine Woods Forever.
“It’s a fascinating experience to be with this group,” he said of the Maine Woods organization in a 2015 interview with the Islander.
“We’re all conservation minded. The whole approach is to ask, ‘What is it about Maine that makes this a worthwhile place to live? What is it that gives this place value?’”