Continuing legacy

It’s no coincidence that author Ron Epp’s latest book, “Creating Acadia National Park: The Biography of George Bucknam Dorr,” was timed to arrive as folks on Mount Desert Island begin to ramp up activities to mark the centennial of Acadia National Park.

Dorr, along with Harvard President Charles W. Eliot and tycoon John D. Rockefeller Jr., established a vision for preservation on MDI that has persevered for more than a century. While the removal of any side of this conservation triumvirate literally would have changed the course of local history, no one, as Epp’s book points out, worked harder or made greater personal sacrifices than Dorr.

Those three titans of the park, however, did not operate alone. Hundreds of others, including many leading year-round residents and other members of the summer society set, all played a part, as Epp so intricately details in the book.

And while many folks have long known of Dorr’s contributions, going so far as to call him “The Father of Acadia,” Epp’s scholarship also outlines the true debt we owe to Dorr’s involvement in creating nearly every institution we hold dear in the community to this day. The impressive list includes the Hancock County Trustees for Public Reservations, the Wild Gardens of Acadia, the Jesup Library, the Bar Harbor Athletic Fields, the Village Improvement Association, the Building of the Arts, the Bar Harbor Water Company, Kebo Valley Golf Course, the MDI Biological Laboratory, The Jackson Laboratory, the Abbe Museum, the Appalachian Mountain Club Camp, Schoodic and the Acadia Corporation.

Dorr’s biography, coming at this time, elevates the focus from simply celebrating 100 years of Acadia National Park to recognizing and honoring the true depth of the founders’ accomplishments.

Much like the hardscrabble Maine coast the park preserves, the effort to create Acadia did not come easily. It took much more than the mere stroke of a pen, shuffling lands already under federal control. The cobbling together of Acadia from gifts and purchases of private land resulted from Eliot’s vision, Dorr’s hard work and no small amount of Rockefeller’s treasure. Honoring that legacy requires a commitment from the people of today to work equally hard at preserving this remarkable landscape for the enjoyment of all in the century ahead.

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