(From left) ANP Facility Manager Keith Johnston, ANP Chief of Resource Management Rebecca Cole-Will, ANP Vegetation Program Manager Jesse Wheeler, National Park Service Director Chuck Sams, ANP Superintendent Kevin Schneider and Friends of Acadia Conservation Director Stephanie Clement stand in front of the Great Meadow Wildlands last week. ISLANDER PHOTO BY MALACHY FLYNN

NPS director visits Great Meadow wetland

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — National Parks Service Director Chuck Sams visited the Great Meadow wetland in Acadia National Park last week to talk about the federal funding behind the restoration effort. 

Funding of $500,000 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go towards the restoration of the wetland, which has had its ecosystem altered by decades of road construction, ditching and invasive plant species. 

“We can bring back the function of what this meadow should do,” said Sams, “[and] also to bring back a multitude of native species.” 

The restoration project is also an effort to improve resilience to climate change in the wetland. 

“National parks have been on the forefront of climate change since the beginning,” said Sams, “understanding and having longevity here of looking and seeing how ecosystems have changed over the years.”  

Director Sams also spoke about the importance of partnership with private organizations that help the National Parks Service do the environmental work that they do. In the case of this particular project, Sams was referencing the partnership with Friends of Acadia, which helps with some of Acadia’s environmental goals. 

“Without these types of public/private partnerships, we wouldn’t be able to do nearly everything we need to do to be the good stewards that we want to be and that we’re charged to be,” said Sams.  

Rebecca Cole-Will, chief of resource management at Acadia, spoke about some of the projects in Great Meadow wetland that are being funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The projects at the wetland have to do with recreating the infrastructure there to better help the wetland function as it naturally would, to remove invasive plant species and replace them with native plants, and to ultimately improve the wetland’s resilience to climate change. 

“It looks beautiful, it looks terrific, but it is not a healthy wetland in the way that we measure the metrics for wetlands at Acadia National Park,” said Cole-Will.  

The flow of water in the wetlands has long been impeded by the culvert that goes under the Park Loop Road, which is too small to allow the proper volume of water flow for the wetlands; this has damaged the structure and ecosystem.  

Restoration at Great Meadow is significant as it is the largest wetland in the park and has great cultural importance to local Indigenous tribes. 

Cole-Will then introduced Jesse Wheeler, the park’s vegetation ecologist, to talk about flood mitigation, water flow, climate resiliency, biodiversity and the issue of invasive plant life. 

“We’re also going to be removing invasive plants,” said Wheeler. “We’ll also be planting native plants that are adaptive for the future climate.” 

Part of the goal for this restoration project is not simply to restore Great Meadow wetland to its native state but to properly prepare it for changes in climate that could affect it in the future. This will not only help the wetland’s current state but will also help it thrive for years to come. 

“What we’re talking about is facilitating species that will do well in a future climate that will increase biodiversity, habitat and visitor experience,” said Wheeler.  

Friends of Acadia Conservation Director Stephanie Clement spoke about the role that her organization plays in this initiative to protect the wetlands and how they are working with the NPS to help restoration efforts. 

“Friends of Acadia helped fund some of the basic monitoring that’s happening out here in the wetland,” said Clement, “[such as] water levels, what’s the plant diversity that we’re seeing here, what are some of the invasive species removal projects that are happening.” 

Friends of Acadia has also done some studies and modeling on how the wetlands will function after the culvert underneath Park Loop Road has been removed and replaced with a structure that allows for better water flow. 

After the briefing, Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider talked about some of the infrastructure that will be improved as a part of the wetland restoration. 

“This project, in restoring the wetlands here at Great Meadow, is actually going to make improvements to trail conditions,” said Schneider. “We’ll have trails that don’t get washed out as often.”  

Wheeler spoke more after the briefing and shared more information on the effort to remove invasive plants and replace them with native species, which is a big part of the ecosystem restoration taking place at the wetlands. 

The biggest problem in Great Meadow is glossy buckthorn, which is an invasive wetland shrub from Europe. The plant has been a problem in the wetlands and also in the forests and on mountains in Acadia for a long time. 

“It can invade wetlands and forests and it has been doing that in Acadia from basically this elevation to the north ridge of Cadillac,” said Wheeler. “This is the one primarily that we’re managing in this wetland [and] we’ve been doing so actually for many years.” 

This invasive species will be replaced with native plant species, particularly ones that are adaptable to a changing climate and more extreme fluctuating weather conditions, as an investment for the future of the park. 

Wheeler said that some of the native plants that are already in Great Meadow wetland are cold adapted, which means that they could suffer in warmer temperatures. Wheeler is looking into ways to find native plants that have strong adaptability for a warmer climate so they could have a future in the wetlands. 

“We’re trying to use models and climate projections that’ll help us with that,” said Wheeler. “We also want to engage our Wabanaki tribe partners with ethnobotanists and to try to think about many different perspectives on what types of native plants will do well here.”  

Malachy Flynn

Malachy Flynn

Reporter Malachy Flynn covers news on the Schoodic beat, which includes the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Sorrento, Sullivan, Trenton, Waltham, and Winter Harbor. He also reports on the town of Tremont on Mount Desert Island. He welcomes tips and suggestions about stories in the area. To contact Malachy with tips or questions, email him at [email protected].
Malachy Flynn

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