Chairman’s Letter: Vision and Shared Experience
By Ed Samek
Summer 2016 Friends of Acadia Journal
Vision isn’t only about sight, a fact of which I was keenly reminded some years back on the nature trail at Ship Harbor. I was walking handin- hand with my then-6-year-old granddaughter, Catie, and we were chatting away and exclaiming about everything we saw: a sudden emerging peek at sparkling water, a fallen tree lying at an interesting angle, looking down at sturdy stone steps and looking up as sunlight flickered for an instant between the leaves of gently blowing leaves. Step after step yielded visual treasures— views, light, natural objects—and I realized that I was seeing things I had never seen before or seeing them in a way that I had not seen before because of how I was looking.
Wanting to have a shared experience with Catie, I was actively looking for things to point out to her. As we walked and talked, Ship Harbor became magical in the way it informed our conversation. Suddenly, we were not grandfather and granddaughter, but two six year-olds chatting and giggling together, exclaiming in the delight of discovery of the world in which we live and in the joy of being with each other. What a magical moment! How I loved Catie, how I loved Acadia, and how fortunate and grateful I am to have had such an experience!
I’ve walked the Ship Harbor Trail many times before and since but that day remains the most vivid in my mind. It’s not that the weather was particularly fine or the light particularly golden, it’s the lasting connection I made with my granddaughter through all the things we saw together. That’s the power of a shared experience: it expands our vision.
Someone recently asked me why I contribute to Friends of Acadia, both as a donor and as a volunteer on the board. I started to talk about needs and wants—how the park’s backlog of deferred maintenance can only wait so long until it becomes decay; how FOA has several endowments but they’re committed to existing projects and now wewho value the park and the outdoors know there is still more to be done in and for Acadia; how after a century of conservation the park needs our continued nurturing. All important reasons, but I realized that there are countless other organizations doing work I believe in and could support. On a basic level I became involved in FOA as a result of becoming inspired by many friends who I heard speak enthusiastically of some of their special park experiences. Through them I came to understand the vision of Acadia’s founders and 100 years of later visitors. Now I have my own clear vision of the park, which includes that we today are part of a continuum of essential caretakers of this splendid and enduring place.
Stories of personal connection leading to significant contribution go back to Acadia’s founding and even before. Acadia was the first national park created by the people and for the people, built on a foundation of private philanthropy, but when we are out in the natural landscapes of the park we sometimes forget how much of Acadia’s story is about human relationships. Think of all the memorial trails in the park, constructed with funds donated by family and friends of each honoree. Think of Charles W. Eliot, finding the motivation in grief for his conservationminded son and the vision in that son’s writings to begin the effort that eventually led to Acadia National Park. Think of me, with my granddaughter, stopping to examine the visual treats and the trail details; I told her, “This was done thanks to Friends of Acadia,” and I felt very proud of that fact.
If you are able to spend time here with friends or family this season, think about the synergy that exists between the park and people at Acadia. Even more than the spectacular landscapes or varied habitats, it is this synergy between people and Acadia National Park, I believe, that is why Friends of Acadia has such effective and passionate members and volunteers: we all care so very, very much because Acadia enhances our shared experiences and it expands our vision. We—and Acadia—are better for it!
Happy 100th, Acadia. ❈