Chairman’s Letter: The Best Is Yet to Come
By Ed Samek
Winter 2015 Friends of Acadia Journal
With all the excitement building for the centennial celebration for Acadia National Park (and coincidentally, for the National Park Service) I have been thinking about birthdays and anniversaries. One thing I am thinking about is that 2016 is also the 30th anniversary of Friends of Acadia! Who knew? Who knows? I do and now you do, and I think it is important to reflect on our first thirty.
When I was a boy birthdays meant new opportunities, new privileges, and new responsibilities. When I turned 8, my parents let me stay up later (8 p.m.!). At 10 I could anticipate losing my first molar—a big deal because the tooth fairy left more money for a molar! Getting older, I finally became eligible for my driving permit at 16 and soon after, my license. With each birthday, my boundaries expanded.
For a nonprofit organization like Friends of Acadia, birthdays are similar but also, of course, different in important ways. Friends of Acadia was “born” in 1986. The organization was inexperienced but had a clear mission to protect and preserve Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities. It took a bit to figure out how best to do this, but an organization doesn’t mature the way a child does—from the start FOA could draw on the wisdom and experience of its founders and it “ages” as a continuum of volunteers, supporters, donors, staff members, and leaders standing on the shoulders of their predecessors. Both gaining experience and bringing in new minds and fresh energy, FOA has adapted, evolved, and continually improved in our important and relevant mission—a better future for Acadia. And FOA is effectively immortal, as long as people love this place and are willing to contribute their personal resources for its good.
As FOA grew, we gathered more volunteers, we conceived new projects, we raised more money—for annual operating expenses as well as for long-term projects. Blessed with generous, like-minded donors, we raised our first endowment funds. We hired an executive director and, later, a staff. We deepened our partnership with Acadia National Park leaders, based on mutual respect, trust, and appreciation, which led to new programs that couldn’t have happened without collaboration by both and sometimes additional partners. Examples include: a) the Island Explorer bus system, which reduces environmental pollution and the number of automobiles on park and surrounding town roads; b) 420 volunteers at work on Take Pride In Acadia Day 2015—the 25th anniversary of this significant contribution; c) land preservation partnerships including almost two decades of FOA involvement in saving a huge tract of land adjacent to Acadia’s Schoodic District—whose boundary was enlarged in November to clear the way for the donation of 1,400 acres; d) youth programs such as the Acadia Youth Conservation Corps, Acadia Youth Technology Team, and Acadia Teacher-Fellows; e) FOA support of a program to clear overgrown and obscured historic scenic vistas… and other partnerships and programs too numerous to name here (visit friendsofacadia.org/what-we-do for more).
Now here we are, making the leap into 2016! I want to say thank you to the many people who have been and are part of the extraordinarily successful first three decades of Friends of Acadia. I want to say thank you, too, to those who will become part of our important and relevant future. As we enter our fourth decade of service, we are grateful for our present, we are proud of our past, and we are confident that the best is yet to come. ❈