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Fall/Winter 2016 Updates

From the Fall/Winter 2016 Friends of Acadia Journal

The Gift of Acadia

After a hot and muggy summer, the morning of August 27th dawned with a crisp, blue sky and a light breeze from the north—a perfect Acadia day. Hundreds of residents and visitors gathered on the Jordan Pond tea lawn for a community celebration of “The Gift of Acadia.” This Acadia Centennial event was planned by Acadia National Park and the Centennial Task Force as a way to honor the contributions of the founders of the park, recognize the many ways that Acadia and the national parks as a whole enrich our lives, and enlist the next generation in caring for our beloved Acadia.

The Burnurwurbskek Singers from the Penobscot Nation began the ceremony with drumming and dancing. All four members of Maine’s Congressional delegation spoke about their own relationships with this special place—from Representative Poliquin mentioning Acadia as a place of healing after the death of his wife to Representative Pingree admitting to spending the night on Cadillac as a young College of the Atlantic student. Michael Reynolds, the National Park Service deputy director of operations, and ANP superintendent Kevin Schneider swore in a new group of Centennial Junior Rangers, a plaque honoring John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s contributions to Acadia was dedicated, and a spirited community chorus led the audience in renditions of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful.”

Also during the event, Friends of Acadia and the Acadia Centennial Task Force were honored with a 2016 NPS Director’s Partnership Award for their work in “empowering and orchestrating the state-wide participation in the 100th Anniversary of Acadia National Park.” The Acadia Centennial celebration has accrued additional honors this year for Friends of Acadia, the Acadia Centennial Task Force, and co-chairs Jack Russell and Cookie Horner. In March, FOA received an honorable mention from the Public Lands Alliance for an Outstanding Public Engagement for a Program or Service. Friends of Acadia and the Maine Seacoast Mission each recognized the co-chairs’ remarkable leadership and service, presenting Horner and Russell with the Marianne Edwards Award and the Sunbeam Award at the organizations’ respective annual meetings in July and August. In October, FOA received the Business of the Year Award from the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, recognizing FOA’s role as the catalyst, fiscal agent, and support structure for the Acadia Centennial Task Force and the centennial celebrations.

“The event at Jordan Pond was an incredible outpouring of community support and love for Acadia,” remarked Stephanie Clement, FOA conservation director. “With a backdrop of Jordan Pond and Acadia’s mountains, the day could not have been more perfect.” The event was graciously supported by the fourteen Acadia Centennial Signature Sponsors, who contributed funds and in-kind media support throughout the year. Dawnland, the Mount Desert Island Regional School System, First National Bank, Northeast Harbor Ambulance Service, Oli’s Trolley, and Wallace Events provided additional funding, transportation services, public safety, and refreshments for the event.

An Amazing Centennial

The Acadia National Park Centennial has been an amazing year of events, products, and programs to celebrate the founding of Acadia and inspire our next century of conservation. More than 450 organizations, businesses, and individuals have signed on as Acadia Centennial Partners (ACPs), and over 200 events and programs have been held across Maine—from art and historical exhibits to lectures, concerts, and hikes.

More than 100 products were officially approved as Acadia Centennial merchandise, enabling them to use the Acadia Centennial logo or sport official Centennial product stickers, tags, and display cards. Products ranged from blueberry jam to jewelry, bookmarks, ornaments, t-shirts, and more. ACP retailers or wholesalers (and in some cases, both) agreed to donate at least five percent of their proceeds to Friends of Acadia to benefit programs in the park.

Many ACPs contributed financially to the celebration, enabling FOA and the Centennial Task Force to put together the Acadia Centennial website at www.acadiacentennial2016.org, a one-stop destination for residents and visitors to find out about partners, events, and products. Funding from signature sponsors and partners also made possible a robust social media presence, periodic gatherings of the ACPs, and outreach to residents and visitors across the state and beyond.

Friends of Acadia and the Acadia Centennial Task Force are eternally grateful for the work of all of the Acadia Centennial Partners and their commitment to celebrate our past and inspire our future. Their combined effort created a year-long, Maine-wide, world-welcoming celebration of our park and enabled many of us to reconnect with and expand our understanding of Acadia. Centennial events will continue through the remainder of 2016, and many local stores and online retailers will offer their centennial products through the holiday season. Stay tuned to the Acadia Centennial website, and be sure to support businesses and organizations displaying the Acadia Centennial “official partner” window cling or the Acadia Centennial flag.

Acadia’s Transportation Planning

As part of its multi-year transportation planning initiative, Acadia National Park released preliminary concepts in October for addressing interrelated transportation issues including congestion, safety, natural resource protection, and positive visitor experience. The ideas were wide ranging— everything from parking reservations to vehicle size restrictions to reducing the number of entrances to the Park Loop Road. The National Park Service will use public feedback on these draft concepts to develop formal alternatives for the draft plan and environmental impact statement, which will be presented for another round of public comment over the winter of 2017.

Friends of Acadia has a board committee that has been working simultaneously with this transportation planning initiative, both to develop FOA’s official comments during each public comment period of the process and to brainstorm ways that FOA can help advance the plan through pilot projects, background research, or education. Already we have invested in three programs focused on Cadillac Mountain: the Cadillac Summit Stewards, a study to prepare for vegetation restoration at the summit, and modeling work to understand road, parking, and pedestrian patterns on the summit—such as how frequently thresholds for parking (in managed and unmanaged scenarios) and crowding (measured by physical crowding and visual crowding tolerance) are exceeded throughout the season and within a 24-hour period, based on the number of vehicles on the Cadillac Summit Road.

Looking ahead, FOA’s flexibility and agility in providing funding and working with outside contractors means that there are many ways we can continue to enhance the planning work. We might be asked to extend the Cadillac modeling to other areas of the park, such as Ocean Drive, to provide another tool for estimating how the transportation alternatives will affect, for example, trail usage or parking. We also might help establish more pilot projects as helpful to the park. The possibilities for FOA investments in transportation are numerous, but will need to be tied to the greater transportation plan in order to be effective. We encourage all our members to stay abreast of the park’s transportation plan by visiting parkplanning.nps.gov/ACADTransportationPlan and providing your own comments when opportunities arise.

L.L.Bean Steps up Again

On July 5th, visitors and the press gathered on the Jordan Pond tea lawn as L.L.Bean’s president & CEO, Stephen Smith, pledged on behalf of the outdoor retailer an additional $1 million to Friends of Acadia to benefit the Island Explorer bus system. L.L.Bean’s gift will help support the operations of the free, propane-powered bus system over the next five years.

Since its inception in 1999, the Island Explorer has carried more than 6.5 million passengers, reducing vehicle trips by more than 2.3 million and eliminating more than 32 tons of smog-causing pollutants and more than 21,000 tons of greenhouse gases. L.L.Bean has been a vital partner in the growth of the Island Explorer, providing critically needed funding that is matched by a transit fee incorporated into Acadia National Park entrance passes, funding from the Maine Department of Transportation, and contributions from area towns, businesses with scheduled stops, and passengers who donate while riding the buses. In total, L.L.Bean has contributed more than $4 million to Acadia National Park projects through Friends of Acadia.

Protecting the Wild Gardens

Closing up the Wild Gardens of Acadia this fall was a lot easier than in the past, thanks to permanent deer fencing installed around the entire perimeter. Previously, Wild Gardens volunteers spent many hours placing cages over at-risk plants and encircling particularly vulnerable habitats, like the mountain, with temporary fencing. Despite these efforts, voracious deer seemed to find new plants to enjoy each spring.

White-tailed deer can jump fences of seven feet or more, so the fencing needed to be high but still allow birds and small wildlife to move freely through it. The Wild Gardens Committee worked with the National Park Service on a fence design that was sensitive to wildlife and the historic setting of Sieur de Monts. The fence uses a generously-sized mesh topped by horizontally- strung wires; wooden posts and handsome wooden gates at the entrance and exit complete the structure. Volunteers working in the park sign shop over the winter will prepare signs to ensure that visitors feel welcome to enter the gardens year-round, even if the gates are closed.

Tomorrow’s Stewards Getting Started Today

The Acadia Youth Conservation Corps (AYCC) had a full crew of dedicated teens for eight weeks this summer. Working with National Park Service trail crew leaders, they focused on popular Beech Mountain, with additional trail rehabilitation projects on the Long Pond and Canada Cliffs trails. The Canada Cliffs Trail was originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corp and features amazing cliffside views. The AYCC constructed a new set of granite stairs on the trail, which required them to learn high lining, a specialized wire pulley system that can safely move the heavy steps. At the end of the season, the AYCC members reported that high lining was their favorite skill learned this summer.

The Acadia Centennial Quest saw more than 300 teams of kids and their families or mentors registered, the most that have ever participated. A completely new set of adventures for the Acadia Centennial had teams “celebrating our past and inspiring our future” through activities that tie in to fun facts about historic events, people, and places; plus things teams can do to protect Acadia and other parks into the future. Many teams commented on how much they enjoyed this year’s centennial edition of Acadia Quest, which took them to new locations in and around the park and brought Acadia’s history alive. In addition, the digital launch of Acadia Quest on the Chimani Acadia National Park app for smart phones was successful, with many teams sharing on social media their collection of digital Acadia Quest badges.

The Acadia Youth Technology Team (AYTT) worked for ten weeks this summer on amazing photography and videography for use by the park and FOA. The team included four high-school age teens and was led by Will Greene, a talented filmmaker and recent MDI High School graduate. Using equipment donated by Canon U.S.A., the AYTT collected content for use on the park’s social media channels throughout the busy centennial summer. In addition, the Digital Media Interpretation Kit (DMIK), which enables visitors to more easily see the nesting peregrine falcons at The Precipice, was handed over to Acadia National Park staff for continued use in the raptor program. The team reported that they “loved” this job and thought the summer was very productive. Team members were also very excited to build their portfolios for use in college applications.

The Cadillac Summit Stewards program is going strong for the third year in a row, acting as the eyes and ears of the park on Cadillac Mountain during the summer and fall. While the team’s focus was primarily on interpretive visitor contacts, they also assisted Acadia’s resource management staff with trail maintenance and law enforcement staff with traffic issues at the summit. As the Cadillac Summit Stewards hiked the trails and roved the summit of Cadillac Mountain during their daily patrols, they gathered data on visitor behavior, questions, and challenges, and used their observations to develop suggestions on possible improvements for the summit, from additional trash cans and ash trays to new sidewalks and informational signs. The team even inspired one visitor to make a $1,000 donation to FOA as a result of his wonderful experience with a Cadillac Summit Steward on the trail.

The new Yellow Bus Fund was a big success in 2016, enabling more than 750 students to visit Acadia, many for their first time. The program makes transportation grants to schools so that students can came to Acadia to participate in ranger-led programs here. Fourteen grants were distributed to schools from all over Maine, including Skowhegan, Brewer, Oakland, Windsor, Waterville, and Deer Isle-Stonington. Maranacook Community Middle School in Readfield camped at Seawall Campground during their visit; teacher Dan Holman reported, “Our Acadia team completed our 3 day trip to Acadia. It was fantastic and a best case scenario of a middle school visiting the park. I can’t overstate our gratitude. A huge thank you to Friends of Acadia for providing us scholarship funds for our trip.”

Annual Benefit Supports Village Connector Trails

In a year full of events marking Acadia’s Centennial, Friends of Acadia’s 27th Annual Benefit stood out as a wonderful celebration of conservation and philanthropy, raising essential funds and inspiring enthusiasm and commitment to care for Acadia as it passes the century mark.

As in past years, the paddle raise was a highlight of the evening, during which 60 donors made an on-the-spot donation to collectively contribute $318,000 to restore the historic Seaside Path in Seal Harbor and other village connector trails. The Seaside Path, linking Jordan Pond and Seal Harbor Beach, was built by the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society at the end of the 1800s. It traverses both park and private land, winds though mossy, coniferous forest, and passes under the triple-arched Stanley Brook carriage road bridge. As Acadia enters its second century, restoring or establishing village connector trails is an important part of the park’s strategy to reduce traffic and provide car-free experiences in Acadia, and Friends of Acadia is a key partner in this effort.

Co-chairs Whitney Kroeger Connor and Elizabeth Seherr-Thoss led the Benefit Committee’s work to plan this memorable evening on the Asticou Inn’s seaside lawn. Inspired by Acadia’s Centennial tagline— celebrate our past, inspire our future—they quickly realized this would be the perfect year to honor the past chairs, co-chairs, and long-serving Benefit Committee members. Longtime committee member and artist Leslie Fogg created two watercolor paintings for certificates thanking these committed volunteers. Since the Benefit’s inception 27 years ago, the event has raised over $11 million for Acadia—an incredible feat that would not have been possible without the dedication of these volunteers.

Our thanks to the 27th Annual Benefit’s Presenting Sponsor, Chilton Trust Company, along with the Paddle Raise Sponsor, Christie’s, and Silent Auction Sponsor, Goldman Sachs; and a special thanks to Gail and Ham Clark for hosting the Patron Preview Party at their Northeast Harbor home, Gulls Way. The 28th Annual Benefit will be held on Saturday, August 12th, 2017. If you would like to donate to the auction, join the Benefit Committee, or have questions about the event, please contact Shawn Keeley at shawn@friendsofacadia.org or 207-288- 3340.

Taking Pride in Acadia

More than 500 volunteers raked 10.2 miles of Acadia’s historic carriage road system on Saturday, November 5th, during the Acadia Centennial edition of Take Pride in Acadia Day, an extra-special celebration of volunteerism and pride in Acadia. By removing fallen leaves from road surfaces and drainage, the volunteers’ collective labor will reduce erosion and washouts during the freeze-and-thaw cycles of a coastal Maine winter and will also help the roads to dry out faster, permitting pedestrian and bicycle access earlier in the season.

This all-important annual volunteer effort depends on a corps of stewardship volunteers who have been coming to the event for many years, a number of retired ANP staff, and the many groups who come from all over eastern Maine for the event. Approximately half of the volunteers are young people from schools including Tremont School, the University of Maine, Husson College, and Scout groups. Community groups include the Downeast Outing Club, Footloose Friends, L.L.Bean, and the Sea & Mountain Hiking Club. In addition to the groups, more than 125 individuals from all over New England participated in the festive day.

The day was sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust, The Bluenose Inn, Burdick & Associates Landscape Design, Cadillac Mountain Sports, Dawnland, The First, Gallery at Somes Sound, Galyn’s, Knowles Company, the Lynam Agencies, Machias Savings Bank, and Window Panes. In addition, transportation for volunteer groups was donated by Acadia National Park Tours, Coastal Kayaking, Downeast Transportation/ Island Explorer, and National Park Sea Kayak. Friends of Acadia and Acadia National Park are grateful to all who made the day a success.

More than 700 New Members Join at Membership Table

If you stop by the Jordan Pond House on most weekdays in July and August, you will probably see a couple of friendly volunteers underneath the arbor beside a display of Friends of Acadia materials. They will happily chat with you about Friends of Acadia, its mission, and how membership contributions support all of our work to protect the park. Last summer, FOA’s membership table volunteers signed up 705 new members— the most in the program’s ten-year history. By sharing their own love and enthusiasm for Acadia, the volunteers connect with visitors from all over the country and the world who would like to do their part to help preserve this remarkable place. If you would like to learn more about the membership table or volunteering next year, contact Sharon Broom at sharon@friendsofacadia.org or 207-288-3340.

New Friends on the Board

Dave Edson is a licensed professional forester and currently serves as the president and CEO of the James W. Sewall Company in Old Town, where he has worked for nearly 40 years. Dave received a BA in American History from Harvard College and a MS in Forest Management from the University of Maine, and has been active on a number of professional, municipal, and nonprofit boards including the Association of Consulting Foresters, Society of Consulting Foresters, the Forest Society of Maine, the Together Place, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and the Veazie Planning Board. Dave’s appreciation for the work of Friends of Acadia deepened after his daughter spent a summer as a seasonal employee of FOA, working as a Ridge Runner on the mountains and trails of Acadia. Dave and his wife, Susan, are residents of Bernard.

Elsie Flemings serves as executive director of Healthy Acadia, a nonprofit organization with a mission to empower people and organizations to build healthy communities in Hancock and Washington counties in eastern Maine. A 2007 graduate of College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Elsie has a lifelong commitment to community involvement and public policy. She served in the Maine State Legislature from 2009 to 2012 as the Representative from District 35, and previously served as a legislative aide in Washington DC and coordinator for the Union River Water Coalition of Hancock County before joining Healthy Acadia in 2009. Elsie lives in Bar Harbor with her husband, Richard Cleary, and two young children.