Taking the Lead

New Operators are Familiar Faces at Wildwood Stables


The new operators of Wildwood Stables in Acadia National Park are likely to be familiar faces to those who’ve enjoyed a horse-drawn carriage ride on the park’s scenic carriage roads in the past.

James Bartick and Kari Goraj of Orland have worked at the stables previously. In December, their company, Acadia by Carriage, LLC, was awarded a 10-year concession contract by the National Park Service (NPS).

In a recent interview, the couple pledged to offer similar excursions and equestrian camping services, but to also bolster customer service with the ability to make online reservations and contact the business the telephone. “Having worked there before, we saw what worked and what didn’t,” Goraj explained. “We also want to make things a little greener.”

James Bartick, right, and Kari Goraj of Acadia by Carriage, LLC, are the new operators of Wildwood Stables. (Photo courtesy Acadia by Carriage, LLC)

Acadia by Carriage plans to purchase a plug-in electric utility vehicle for use on daily trips along the carriage roads to clean up any manure. She added they also hope to coordinate trip departure times with the Island Explorer shuttle bus system to make accessing the stables easier via that option.

The company will offer six daily trips in horse-drawn carriages along the park’s historic network of gravel roads, which were built in the early years of the last century by Acadia’s biggest benefactor, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Trips include viewing several of the system’s unique and graceful granite arch bridges.

Although the stables currently have one carriage that can accommodate a wheelchair, Acadia by Carriage plans to purchase a second one that can handle two wheelchairs at

“It will allow for two at once and one of them can be by the driver,” Goraj said.

The contract also includes management of the nine-site equestrian campground adjacent to the stables.

Wildwood Stables. (Photo by Will Newton/Friends of Acadia)

“The concession operations at Wildwood Stables provide impactful services for park visitors, providing visitors the opportunity to join a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour.

The concession operations also provide equestrian services such as horse boarding,” a NPS press release states. “The new concessioner was selected through a competitive selection process,” it adds.

The previous stable operator was former Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter of Houlton. In 2009 he formed Carriages of Acadia and operated Wildwood until last season.

The stable concession contract was put out to bid in 2019 but an award was postponed due to the COVID epidemic, and Carriages of Acadia was granted extensions. The bid process
was reopened last year.

“The current concession contractor, Carriages of Acadia, Inc., has provided outstanding service at Wildwood Stables since 2009. The NPS plans to work with both concessioners to
ensure a smooth transition,” the NPS release says.

Currently, Goraj and Bartick live off the grid in their homestead in Orland. Goraj’s work with horses goes back more than three decades. “I guess I’m just guilty by association,” Bartick joked. The couple have three horses of their own and plan to use their deep connections with farms throughout the northeast to source the even-tempered draft horses needed for the operations.

EARL BRECHLIN is a Registered Maine Guide, former journalist, and award-winning Maine author.