BAR HARBOR— After six years as chair of the board of Friends of Acadia, Ed Samek, FOA’s longest-serving board chair, is passing the gavel to Anne Green, who for the last four years chaired FOA’s development committee. She also was co-chair of the successful $25 million second century capital campaign
Both the incoming and outgoing chairs have remarkably similar agendas and goals. In telephone interviews, both listed the same challenges that FOA began addressing six years ago, as the organization under Samek developed a strategic plan. The difference today, both said, is that these challenges – climate change and its effects on the park’s natural and cultural resources; congestion on roads, trails and beaches; the quality of the visitor experience; and the need to involve youth, the next generation of stewards – are more significant and will be exacerbated as the general population and the number of visitors coming to Acadia grows.
In crafting the strategic plan, said Samek, FOA had to develop the right plan, one that was fresh and visionary, and one that could support a major capital campaign. Samek acknowledges that had it not been for the leadership of FOA in its first 25 years and the issues those leaders addressed – issues like restoring the carriage roads and rehabilitating Acadia’s trail system – the board under his leadership could not have developed the plan it did. Samek also acknowledged the role that superintendents, deputy superintendents and park staff have played and continue to play in addressing issues and implementing initiatives.
“The park, FOA, residents, merchants, cruise ship and tour bus representatives should all come together and hammer out sensible plans and programs,” said Samek, “for if they act individually, the decision may be good for one but possibly not for the others.”
In addition to the number of visitors, another factor contributing to congestion and gridlock, said Samek, is the location of places like Cadillac Mountain, the summit of which is reached by a winding, two-lane road. Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, two other favorites of park visitors, are located very close to one another, and again, on a road that can accommodate only a specific number of cars.
In recognition of his service to FOA, Samek, who has been on FOA’s board for 14 years, received the Marianne Edwards distinguished service award at last week’s annual meeting. In presenting the award, FOA President David MacDonald noted Samek’s commitment to finding consensus on potentially divisive points, his willingness to tackle ambitious goals, for bringing his keen insight and vast experience from the for-profit world to benefit a nonprofit, and for his generous concern for the people and the relationships that are at the heart of Friends of Acadia. “I’m grateful for the experience of having been chairman and am pleased that a large constituency came together to focus on the future,” said Samek.
“I’m pleased with where Friends of Acadia is now. We are part of a continuum, and Anne [Green] is a great choice to continue to build our future.”
Like Samek, Green listed the four pillars of the campaign as the principal challenges Friends of Acadia, along with park staff and other partners, must continue to work on. In remarks at the annual meeting, she acknowledged that she had big hiking boots to fill. “I tip my hat off to the outgoing board chairman. I inherited an incredible board and staff,” she said. Green feels her experience in the last three years working on the second century campaign will help her as she works with FOA staff and volunteers in addressing congestion, enhancing communication about the park and among park constituencies, educating the next generation to step up to secure and maintain park resources, ensuring a quality visitor experience and finding other funding sources in addition to philanthropy. Another goal of Green is maintaining and growing the corps of volunteers who work regularly to maintain resources. “We have been blessed with terrific crew leaders and volunteers,” said Green.
The transportation plan the park is developing, Green called a work in progress. “FOA must continue to work with the park by helping to pinpoint and identify the hot spots in the park that present major congestion and to help find ways to alleviate bottlenecks by suggesting alternative routes or the Island Explorer,” said Green.
Green also feels strongly that FOA must continue to advocate for the park, particularly when the park is short staffed and underfunded, and she is committed to furthering the Wild Acadia initiative, an initiative to restore key watersheds such as along Cromwell Brook.