Acadia National Park has been, and continues to be, an unprecedented success. That didn’t happen overnight. Most come for the spectacular scenery where the ocean meets the rockbound coast of Maine. But the beauty of our coast was mostly unknown, except among mariners and a privileged few, until some people from away pooled their imaginations, their own and others’ money and their ambitions to share this natural beauty with others.
Initial gifts stimulated the effort, and the park really was born in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson announced the creation of Sieur de Monts National Monument. Three years later, President Wilson signed the act creating Lafayette National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River. The name was changed to Acadia in 1929.
The popularity of Acadia, one of the most visited parks in the National Park Service system, has grown exponentially. After devastation by a forest fire in 1947, the trees of Acadia have regenerated and matured once again. Today, the park is seen by more than 2 and a half million visitors a year.
Those among us who have lived nearby during the past decades of park life continue to be impressed, even awed, by the impact the park has on our local economy. Many of our year-round Hancock County businesses, including this newspaper, would not exist without the infusion of revenue in the five months from June through October. Those five extra-special business months spell the difference between success and failure over the rest of the year.
As it did so many years ago, the park’s vitality continues to attract spectacular gifts. That has been truer this summer than in others. To celebrate his 100th birthday, David Rockefeller presented 1,000 acres around Little Long Pond on Mount Desert Island to the Land & Garden Preserve of Mount Desert Island as a “contribution that will be of lasting interest and importance to a broader part of the community.” While that land is not inside the park, it abuts park holdings and is a valuable addition to the entire viewshed and ecosystem.
And just this month, the beautiful new Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor was completed by a New Hampshire land company and a private family foundation and presented to the National Park Foundation. The 1,400-acre property and its miles of biking trails and hiking paths will be open each year from Memorial Day to Columbus Day with 33 sites for recreational vehicles, 50 sites for tents and smaller campers and two group sites with 25 campsites each.
In a state where large resource-based industries have been declining for decades, it’s worth reminding ourselves that Maine license plates bear the term “vacationland.” The National Park Service has been, and continues to be, a welcome neighbor.