Friends on the Hill
What does a friends group do when the federal government shuts down and visitors are kept out of our national parks? We call Ralph and Susan Nurnberger, members of the Friends of Acadia Advocacy Committee and residents of Mount Desert Island and Arlington, Virginia. During the shutdown, Friends of Acadia collected 2,492 signatures from residents and visitors who were in the Mount Desert Island region and wanted to express their dismay to Congress. How to get those signatures to Congress became a challenge, as mail going to Capitol Hill is delayed by several weeks for safety checks. FOA contacted Ralph and Susan, who quickly offered to hand-deliver the petitions to Congressional leadership.
The Nurnbergers’ relationship with Acadia National Park began decades ago. Ralph’s mother and stepfather first met on Sand Beach, and Susan started her journey with family trips that included the park and circuits through Canada. After Susan and Ralph married in 1980, they started traveling to Acadia for summer vacations and purchased their Bar Harbor home a decade ago.
Ralph and Susan have been outstanding advocates for Acadia National Park. Not only have they opened doors on Capitol Hill for Friends of Acadia, but they have offered valuable advice on Friends of Acadia’s advocacy strategies and programs. They have helped shepherd FOA board members and staff through the halls of Congress and have participated in informational tours with Congressional representatives here at Acadia. Ralph’s background as a foreign and domestic affairs lobbyist has been particularly helpful to Friends of Acadia as he meets every day with members of Congress and understands the inner workings of legislative negotiations.
Ralph’s clients in his lobbying career have included the newly formed nation of South Sudan, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Morocco. Ralph is also an adjunct professor of international relations at Georgetown University and has spoken on the topic at numerous events locally at College of the Atlantic, the Pot and Kettle Club, and the Claremont Hotel. His 2012 talk on relations with Iran was carried by MPBN’s “Speaking in Maine” series broadcast throughout the state. Susan’s background is also in the educational field; she recently retired from a career of teaching special education in the Arlington, Virginia schools. Susan helps run Ralph’s lobbying firm, Nurnberger Associates, with administrative support for their contract work.
While here at Acadia, the Nurnbergers enjoy all that the park and surrounding communities offer. They enjoy tennis, hiking, swimming, and boating. Their favorite trails are Gorham Mountain, Duck Brook, Beech Cliff, and Lower Hadlock. Ralph spent his 50th birthday celebrating at the Jordan Pond House, and the Nurnbergers want to ensure that future generations are also able to have this experience.
Ralph has played tennis competitively for many years and first came to Mount Desert Island himself in 1964 to play tennis at the Bar Harbor Club. It was through a fellow tennis player that Ralph and Susan were introduced to the Friends of Acadia Benefit Auction. The Nurnbergers graciously donated an international affairs dinner, which was such a popular item that the Nurnbergers allowed it to be sold twice. Ralph and Susan hosted the second dinner at their home in Arlington, and Susan prepared dinner for twelve guests!
When asked why they thought that advocacy was important for Friends of Acadia, they replied that everything Acadia National Park does is governed and ruled by the federal government. Friends of Acadia must ensure that members of Congress are aware of the beauty of the park, the programs that the park offers, and the importance of the park to the local economy.
Friends of Acadia is indebted to the Nurnbergers for all their work. We thank them for their political expertise and connections and most importantly for their continuing love of and dedication to Acadia National Park. See you on the Hill!
STEPHANIE CLEMENT is the conservation director at Friends of Acadia.