Watching Out for Acadia

Natalie OvertonBy David MacDonald, Friends of Acadia President and CEO

We’re just two weeks into a new administration in Washington, and it’s no surprise that national parks have been at the fore of public discourse, activism, and concern about our nation’s future. Whether you  were in a crowd at the National Mall, alone in your favorite spot in Acadia, or following your favorite parks on social media, the inspirational power of these places and the commitment of those charged with protecting them has been a reassuring touchstone for many of us during these days of roiling change.

Our parks are among the most beloved federal assets, and the American public has signaled time and time again that public treasures such as Acadia should be above politics and should receive adequate funding and support from both chambers of Congress and from the executive branch. Because of their popularity and democratic nature, national parks have an important role to play in broadening our understanding of challenging issues ranging from civil rights to climate change. They are also among the most beautiful places on Earth and have created memories and connections for many of us that span generations and extend world-wide.

The coming weeks and months will undoubtedly challenge us to take our efforts to protect these special places to new levels. FOA has already weighed in with Maine’s Congressional delegation with concerns around some of the administration’s cabinet nominations, and I will travel to Washington this month to share examples of how years of underfunding and the federal hiring freeze are crippling Acadia’s staff. We received encouraging news late last week that the hiring freeze will likely not apply to the hundreds of seasonal staff that help run Acadia each summer and fall, but we remain concerned that Acadia has eleven permanent positions that remain unfilled, including such key positions as carriage road foreman and deputy chief ranger.

Although FOA’s historic Second Century Campaign is raising millions of new dollars to help advance the most important issues at Acadia—resiliency to climate change, transportation solutions, youth engagement in parks—we refuse to have these private efforts simply patch a hole created by dangerous cuts to federal funding.

Friends of Acadia is mission driven. Our members represent a tremendously broad constituency, and it is this diversity of voices—Democrats and Republicans, residents and visitors, young and old, business owners and nonprofit partners—that will be most effective in preserving and protecting Acadia both in the immediate term and over the long haul.

I want you to know that FOA is among the most active friends groups in the nation when it comes to advocating for our park, and as we begin working within the new political landscape in Washington we will always be guided by what is best for Acadia.

We need you now as much as ever. Please spend time in your park, engage in meaningful conversations online and in person, seek information from a variety of sources, join a volunteer work crew, and write or call your elected officials to share your perspective. Acadia and national parks everywhere belong to all of us—and broad public participation is the best way to ensure they will be entrusted to those who come after us.