MOUNT DESERT — Charlie Jacobi, who retired Dec. 31 after 36 years with the National Park Service — the last 34 years at Acadia — was toasted and roasted at a party in his honor attended by about 120 people at Neighborhood House here last Friday evening.
A dozen of Jacobi’s friends and longtime colleagues alternately praised and poked good-natured fun at him as they recalled his three-plus decades of work in the park.
Jacobi held several positions during his early years at Acadia. During most of his career, his title was resource specialist, which covered a broad range of responsibilities.
He initiated Acadia’s Leave No Trace program in 1997 and continued to coordinate it until his retirement. Last year, Acadia was among the first 10 “public land recreation areas” in the country to be awarded the Gold Standard designation by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The center is a national nonprofit organization the mission of which is to teach people how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and protect the natural landscape.
“Charlie, despite being a famous, dedicated master of Leave No Trace – that’s an actual earned title of his – has in fact left a huge trace at Acadia National Park,” said former Ranger Jim Grover who, like Jacobi, started working at Acadia in 1984.
“He has made a career of making … parks and wild lands much better places,” Grover told those at Jacobi’s retirement party.
David Manski, retired chief of Acadia’s Division of Resource Management, was Jacobi’s boss for many years. He said Jacobi introduced a new way of thinking about park management.
“We thought about protecting park resources and protecting visitors from injuring themselves, but protecting the experiences of visitors was a novel idea,” Manski said. “Charlie really was the leader in that in the national park system at the park level. He gave us insights into a responsibility we had that we had never really thought about.
“Charlie also was an amazing mentor to more than 100 seasonal employees … that he worked with over the years,” Manski said.
Some of those seasonal employees called “Ridge Runners” — now Summit Stewards — do trail maintenance work and help educate visitors about Leave No Trace. Several former Ridge Runners praised Jacobi in video testimonials that they recorded for the retirement party.
Judy Hazen Connery, natural resources specialist at Acadia, was another member of the park’s new employee group in 1984 and, according to her, the first person Jacobi met when he arrived.
“Charlie is an amazing educator, always thinking about how he might spread the word about leaving a place a little bit better than we find it, especially with the kids,” she said.
“He always had time to help people out, to be a leader and to show how you can care and how you can change the world one step at a time.”
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider described Jacobi as “one of a kind” and “a trailblazer in trying to understand how visitors affect the parks, which is such an important question.”
“You epitomize the commitment of the National Park Service ranger and what it means to care for Acadia National Park,” he told Jacobi.
Jacobi has worked closely with Friends of Acadia, the nonprofit support organization for the park, on a number of projects over the years.
“I cannot think of anyone who embodies more than Charlie does the combination of a passion for protecting the resource and a commitment to sharing that ethic with others,” said Friends of Acadia President and CEO David MacDonald.