MOUNT DESERT — Fulfilling his long-standing plans for his Seal Harbor property, David Rockefeller Sr. announced Friday that he will contribute Little Long Pond and approximately 1,000 acres of fields, woodlands, carriage roads, streams and hiking trails surrounding the pond to the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve.
The announcement was made in a tent overflowing with more than 200 well-wishers in a field adjacent to the pond.
The tract is one of the largest privately held parcels on Mount Desert Island.
David MacDonald, member of the Land and Garden Preserve board and president of Friends of Acadia, spoke about the special nature of the gift.
“Each of us has our own special memory, our favorite trail, the reason why we love this place. We love the land, but we truly also love the landowner,” he said.
Addressing Rockefeller directly, he continued, “The affection we have for you and the admiration we have for you and your family and what you’ve done, it’s what I think about when I’m walking around this property. It enriches every hike I take here and I think is the reason why many of us hold the land very dear.”
Neva Rockefeller Goodwin, David Sr.’s daughter and chairman of the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve board, said no changes in the traditional free public access is planned. “For the foreseeable future, use and access will continue exactly as it has.”
David Rockefeller Jr. said that his sister Eileen had realized the gift amounted to ten acres for each year of David Sr.’s life. “It’s amazing to think how much has changed [in 100 years], but also how much has stayed the same and how much will stay the same because of this act of my Dad’s and so many other people who have supported this park and public places on the island.” He credited three generations of Rockefeller women “with the help of their men … when asked, “for being good stewards of the Little Long Pond property. They include his father’s mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who created her extensive namesake gardens on nearby Barr Hill, his mother and his father’s late wife, Peggy Rockefeller, and, more recently, Goodwin. “I’m very grateful to all of them,” he said, noting he could not tell the difference between a zinnia and an azalea.
He also praised all the people that work for Green Rock, the company formed to maintain family properties, for their hard work and dedication.
David Rockefeller Sr. spoke of his deep ties to Mount Desert Island beginning when he was brought here by his parents when he was just an infant. “Seal Harbor, maybe more than any other locations I can think of in the world, has been important to me since I first came here when I was three months old in my parents’ hands.
“It has continued to be wonderful because of what each of you have done. I want to thank you for that and hope that your interest will continue. My love to you all, my gratitude to you all and my expression of hope that we can keep on, for a time at least, working together.”
David Rockefeller Sr., an international banker and philanthropist who has summered in Seal Harbor since his birth on June 12, 1915, decided to announce the transfer as part of his 100th birthday celebration. His parents purchased their first home in Seal Harbor in 1910.
For decades, carriage roads and hiking trails on the land, which abuts Acadia National Park, have been open to the public. While bicycling is allowed only with permission, the Rockefeller family has allowed people to walk dogs on the land off leash. Unleashed dog are not allowed in Acadia.
“My father’s generosity will ensure that Little Long Pond and the beautiful land and trails around it will always be open to public access for walking, hiking, horseback riding and the other outdoor activities that are an important part of the allure of the beautiful state of Maine,” Goodwin said. “What a grand and appropriate way for this wonderful man to celebrate his 100th birthday.”
The land to be transferred will stretch from the preserve’s present property on Eliot Mountain, eastward to Barr Hill and the Stanley Brook Road, with the exception of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden and some other properties, which will be made public in the future. The transfer of the 1,000 acres is contemplated to be completed this summer.
The Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve is a 501 (c) (3) public charity, governed by a 25-member board of directors, with a mission of “preserving, for public enjoyment, the aesthetic and spiritual heritage of certain horticultural and natural landscapes on Mount Desert Island.”
The preserve operates, in addition to various buildings and other structures, two gardens in Northeast Harbor built by lifelong Northeast Harbor resident Charles K. Savage, who preserved the plant collection of Beatrix Farrand, the renowned landscape architect, with financial support from David Rockefeller’s father, John D. Rockefeller Jr.