From the Board Chair: We Get by With a Little Help From Our Friends

BY BILL EACHO, Friends of Acadia Board Chair

The Beatles said in their hit song that we get by with a little help from our friends. Indeed, that was the spirit that prevailed at the 2023 National Park Friends Alliance Fall Meeting held last October in Cleveland, Ohio.

I joined eight other representatives from Acadia National Park, including Friends of Acadia President Eric Stiles, Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider, and Schoodic Institute President Nick Fisichelli, and we were hosted in Cleveland by the excellent team at the Conservancy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The National Park Friends Alliance is a community of park partners focused on enhancing support for national parks by creating space for collaboration, creativity, and philanthropic partnerships between the National Park Service and their official nonprofits.

The fall meeting of the Friends Alliance offered time for friends groups and park partners to come together to network in person, share ideas, and learn best practices for partnerships, visitor engagement, education, and stewardship of our national parks.

In addition to the excellent panels, workshops, and plenary sessions, the four-day event included a variety of well-curated field trips and social and networking events. One of my favorites was a bike tour of Cuyahoga Valley National Park where we learned about volunteerism in this park and many of Cuyahoga’s transportation initiatives.

It was inspirational and enlightening to hear from those leading the way on key challenges our national parks face such as the rapid pace of climate change, making our parks welcoming and accessible to all, and co-stewardship with Indigenous Tribes.

Acadia was well represented in leading these discussions, and it made me incredibly proud to see our work presented as leading the way on so many fronts.

Conservation Projects Manager Paige Steele presented Friends of Acadia’s work to expand access and welcome urban and diverse youth to Acadia, highlighting the 400% growth in the program since it started in 2017. The program is currently being replicated by Greater Basin National Park and others.

Acadia National Park’s Chief of Resource Management Rebecca Cole-Will and Nation-to-
Nation Co-Stewardship Thought Leader Dr. Suzanne Greenlaw spoke on a panel exploring models of co-leadership with Indigenous communities.

They shared work that began at Acadia in 2012 in consultation with the Wabanaki Tribes exploring plant gathering in the park.

Nick Fisichelli represented Acadia in a discussion on Sustainability and Science, which focused on how best to support the science that parks need amidst rapid environmental change. Paige and Nick also shared Acadia’s outdoor classroom educational programs in a conversation on outdoor education.

Friends of Acadia’s Vice President of Communications Lori Schaefer hosted an informal session with parks interested in strategic communications planning and finding ways to better connect with park visitors and other audiences. And several of us from Acadia initiated an informal discussion about creating affordable workforce housing for parks.
That session had to be moved to a bigger room because so many signed up!

As the Chair of the Friends of Acadia Board of Directors, it was a delight to be immersed among such national talent and creative energy, and to see the passion that exists collectively for ensuring that our national parks are protected for generations to come.

It left me feeling proud and hopeful. I hope that as you read this issue of Acadia magazine and learn more about some of our cutting-edge work, that you’ll take pride in our collective accomplishments and know you are a key part of all we do for Acadia.