ACADIA NAT’L PARK — At the end of his first day as superintendent of Acadia National Park on Monday, Kevin Schneider attended the kick-off event for the park’s centennial celebration, a community baked-bean supper at Mount Desert Island High School. More than 400 people were there.
“What an amazing show of support for the park, for so many people to come out on a January night to celebrate the park’s centennial,” Schneider said. “It was really exciting to be walking into a community where the reception is so warm and where the park is just so incredibly relevant.”
Following the bean supper, a film about Acadia by Peter Logue of Southwest Harbor was shown to an overflow crowd in the high school auditorium.
“It’s a phenomenal documentary about the park and how the park has played a role in these communities and about the vision for Acadia National Park for its next 100 years of preservation,” Schneider said.
In an interview with the Islander on Tuesday, Schneider said he wasn’t coming into the superintendent’s job with a list of specific objectives because he knows he has a lot to learn.
“This is quite a complex park, and it has intricate relationships with the communities,” he said. “The communities and the park are inextricably linked. Trying to understand that dynamic is really important to me, so I’m going to be in full-time listening mode for quite some time. I have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
“The perspectives of our communities, our partners, our stakeholders and our staff are going to help inform my priorities as superintendent.”
In general, Schneider said, “My focus will be on trying to ensure that the values that were envisioned by the founders of this park remain protected in the future, making sure those values are perpetuated.
“I see the centennial as an opportunity for us to renew our commitment to the park and understand what the role of the park is on this island and in these communities.”
Noting that this year marks the centennial of the National Park Service (NPS), as well as Acadia, he said those milestones present an opportunity “to introduce the parks to the next generation of Americans.”
Schneider, who turned 40 last Friday, was deputy superintendent at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming for the past four years. Before that, he was superintendent at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. He also has worked at other park service units including Yellowstone National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and the NPS Office of Communications in Washington, D.C.
Schneider grew up outside Chicago. He has an undergraduate degree in natural resources recreation and tourism from Colorado State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Montana State University.
Schneider’s wife, Cate, grew up in Bangor and has undergraduate and graduate degrees in kinesiology, the study of human movement, from the University of Maine. The couple has two children: Sydney, 6, and Connor, 2.
Schneider described Acadia as a “crown jewel” in the National Park System that is known for three things: “One is our amazing staff. This is the kind of place that attracts the best and the brightest, and they stay here.
“It’s also known for having phenomenal partners. Friends of Acadia sets the bar in the National Park System for the fundraising work they do to benefit the park, and the Schoodic Institute is a wonderful organization, as well.
“And the communities are wonderful places to live and raise a family.
“Having all three of those things is very rare; it’s really special,” Schneider said. “We’re excited to be part of it.”