President’s Message: A Sustained Commitment to Acadia
By David R. MacDonald
Spring 2017 Friends of Acadia Journal
On the heels of a historically busy centennial year here at Acadia, several friends and partners have recently asked me if all of us at FOA are relieved to have turned the page to 2017 and are now catching up on rest and “getting back to normal.” Well, no…
Don’t get me wrong: there will not be another year-long calendar of events celebrating Acadia’s hundred-and-first birthday! However, the partnerships, the community engagement, the generous philanthropy, and the important discussions that 2016 inspired must continue to grow in their scope and impact in 2017 and the years to come. With a new administration in Washington and public expectations for parks at an all-time high following local and national centennial activities, we must continue to build on the momentum that 2016 helped to create.
FOA is committed to serving as a hub and resource for much of the work ahead. We will work with the park and many partners to tackle the key issues facing our park: finding new approaches to transportation and Acadia’s growing visitation, which was up nearly 18% last year, or a half-million visitors; establishing model programs through our Wild Acadia initiatives to make the park’s watersheds and natural communities more resilient to rapid environmental change; and opening up opportunities for young people to engage in park experiences and help create solutions to these and other challenges. FOA has long had its vision focused well beyond 2016, as we realize that these issues will require decades of commitment in order to effect generational change.
Such change rarely comes in one fell swoop; more often, it is gradual and incremental and requires persistence as well as trial and error. Think of the first $15,000 that FOA invested in the 1999 pilot of the Island Explorer bus system—back when we were charging riders for each trip—and how 16 years, $3.3 million dollars, and more than 6 million riders later, this partnership has been transformative for Acadia and its visitors.
Think of the first $25,000 grant that FOA made to help park staff manage invasive plants in Acadia, and how this program has now become a national model within the Park Service and inspired an even more ambitious approach to resource protection—and has attracted lead donor support from Canon U.S.A., the Martha and Alexis Stewart Foundation, the Leon Levy Foundation, and the BAND Foundation to allow FOA to build a new, permanent endowment for Wild Acadia as part of our Second Century Campaign.
Think of the $2,000 summer stipend that FOA paid an elementary school teacher from Colorado five years ago to serve as an Acadia Teacher Fellow, enabling an experience that has inspired her to conduct field trips to national parks each subsequent year with all of her students under the national Every Kid in a Park program.
In each of these examples, FOA’s investment has helped generate and leverage significant federal funding for the park. Acadia is the beneficiary of more than a century of public-private partnerships, but absolutely fundamental to that covenant is the importance of Congress providing adequate funding for our national parks. This is the message that FOA delivered last month on our visits to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Maine’s Congressional delegation and appropriations committees’ staff (see our Advocacy Corner on page 30 for more about the visit).
At the same time, our local communities are the heart of the “private” part of Acadia’s public-private legacy, and 2017 has brought indications from many Acadia-area businesses and organizations that they don’t consider their centennial support for Acadia a one-year bargain. From continuing to share proceeds of product sales (thank you, Acadia Corporation) to encouraging overnight guests to make voluntary additions to their hotel bills (thank you, Witham Properties) to becoming a “charter” member of FOA’s new Business Membership program (see page 24 for details), the ways in which area businesses are sharing their success with FOA and Acadia is growing.
If there’s one lasting benefit from the Acadia Centennial, I hope it will be a deepened awareness for all that the park gives to us—recreationally, economically, inspirationally—and for how much Acadia needs our help if these unparalleled gifts are to continue for the generations to come. Thank you for helping us in our work to make Acadia’s second century even better than the first! ❈