BAR HARBOR — David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia (FOA) for the past 10 years, announced Monday that he plans to step down early next year.
“It has been a tremendous honor to lead this institution, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with our partners at the park and the thousands of people who make our mission possible,” MacDonald said in a press statement. “After ten rewarding years, I’ve decided that the time is coming for me to help transition to Friends of Acadia’s next president and CEO.
“I truly believe that organizations benefit from new energy and leadership, just as individuals like me benefit from new directions and challenges. Friends of Acadia has an incredibly strong team of staff and board members, and I look forward to working with them in the months ahead to ensure a smooth transition.”
The FOA board of directors will soon launch a nationwide search for MacDonald’s successor and hopes to have a new leader in place by spring 2022.
Asked what his plans are for life after FOA, MacDonald told the Islander, “I’m excited to create some time and space to think about that and figure it out. I’m not leaving this job for another position.”
In an email to FOA members announcing his decision to step down, he called his tenure at FOA “ten of the most rewarding years of my life.”
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said MacDonald has been an “incredible partner” to the park.
“Through his leadership, FOA completed its Centennial Campaign in 2016, raising more than $30 million for Acadia. From trails and carriage roads to youth outreach to adapting Acadia to a changing climate, FOA has been at the center of so much work in Acadia National Park, in some cases making the work possible and in other cases making it better.
“David possesses a deep love for Acadia, and I’ve shared many miles of trails and carriage roads with him, whether it is out with donors, board members or volunteers, or just discussing our shared future,” Schneider said. “I will personally miss David greatly as he has been a fantastic sounding board, mentor and friend to me.”
Jack Kelley, chair of the FOA board, said, “Friends of Acadia is strong and successful today due to David MacDonald’s outstanding leadership, his unique knowledge of our constituencies and his dedication to preserving and protecting Acadia National Park and its surrounding communities. David’s decision to hand off leadership of the organization when it is thriving further exemplifies his exceptional and unselfish leadership and commitment to our cause.”
FOA, a nonprofit, donor-funded organization, focuses much of its financial support for the park on improving the visitor experience, ensuring resilience in the face of climate change, engaging young people more deeply in the park and maintaining Acadia’s trails and carriage roads.
Asked what he has been particularly proud of as FOA’s leader, MacDonald said, “Being part of a great team and this community and working in partnership with the park – that’s what I’m most proud of.
“Overall, it’s been the level of support and engagement from everyone – our members and donors, our volunteers, our staff, the community and members of Congress. It has been really fun and rewarding and an honor to be part of something that brings people together.”
MacDonald said Acadia has grappled with several big issues over the past 10 years. He mentioned specifically the development of a long-range, comprehensive transportation plan and the challenges of climate change.
“When I first started this job, I thought we would be talking about climate change as something the park has to face in the future,” he said. “But it’s happening quickly and affecting every aspect of park operations, from safety to visitation to resource protection.
“I’m proud that Friends of Acadia has been part of a team effort with the park service, the Schoodic Institute and the community to try to get our arms around that and come up with some strategies.
“Parks are places that most of us want to stay unchanged because that gives us comfort,” MacDonald said. “But these strategies [to address climate change] will require us to think and act differently.”
He said he is confident that most FOA members, Acadia visitors and the community will be open to that.
“That makes me feel good, and it gives me confidence about Acadia’s future,” he said.