Happy 100th, Acadia

A group of intrepid Acadia National Park Centennial Partners gathered at Otter Cliffs at dawn on New Year’s Day to watch the first sunrise of the park’s 100th year. Still other visitors and centennial enthusiasts marked the occasion by hiking in the pre-dawn darkness by the light of headlamps to the summit of Cadillac Mountain to witness first light.

While there were plenty of clouds, the sun did make its appearance, its golden rays warming hearts and lending a celestial flourish to the opening of what promises to be a historic year.

One only can imagine what it must have been like for folks some 100 years ago to look out from Otter Cliffs over the spectacular vista of rock-bound coast and crashing waves, along what is now Ocean Drive. The growing popularity of Mount Desert Island then, as a summer playground for the well-to-do, added an air of urgency to efforts to keep the beauty from being locked up in a sprawl of private seasonal estates.

The park’s forefathers recognized that this place is irreplaceable, worthy of permanent protection. The Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations was organized as the vehicle to push for the creation of a national park. We now enjoy the fruits of that vision.

The question now, for the people of our time, is to ask how well we will make Acadia’s charms an enduring legacy.

Of course, the challenges have changed. The growing fondness for the place is attracting so many people that some believe Acadia is in danger of being loved to death. There is little difference between damage to the land by a single bulldozer or the combined insult of two million footsteps. Those challenges must be met head-on, with wisdom, passion and sensitivity towards cultural traditions.

Throughout 2016, the 100th anniversary effort, lead by Friends of Acadia and the Centennial Steering Committee, along with more than 250 partner organizations and institutions, will celebrate a century of conservation success on Mount Desert Island with a variety of observances and activities.

Although the actual anniversary date is July 8, events are scheduled throughout the year.

In honor of Acadia’s 100th anniversary, the official centennial logo will appear on the front page of the Islander for the entire year, commencing with this issue. That emblem also will be employed throughout the editorial spaces of the paper over the next 12 months to help identify, and recognize, official bicentennial events and related stories.

In summer, the Islander also will publish an entire special section celebrating the park, its history and traditions, and its importance to the entire Down East area.

Acadia’s anniversary this year coincides with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service itself. Because that milestone will be marked nationwide, officials realize that there is a very real prospect of a major surge in visitation in response to the amplified attention. Fortunately, officials are making preparations to deal with that possibility, including publicizing ways people can enjoy the park at other than peak times, and in more private and personal ways.

Promoting those efforts will remind us all that we must protect Acadia’s legacy.

The ultimate Acadia Centennial charge, for our generation, is to make sure that when people 100 years from now gather to welcome the park’s bicentennial at Otter Cliffs at dawn on Jan. 1, 2116, they will be equally inspired by the same spectacular landscape that we so cherish today.

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