It’s a good thing: Martha Stewart to give $1M for Acadia

Like any other fan of Acadia during the Centennial year, Martha Stewart hiked the trails, climbing the Beehive and exploring Great Head, all just a short way from her Seal Harbor home.

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During Memorial Day weekend of the Acadia Centennial year, Martha Stewart hiked the Beehive with friends and blogged about it. (Photo courtesy of www.themarthablog.com)

Now, as the Centennial year nears an end, to show her appreciation for the park and invite others to show theirs, she has made a $1 million challenge grant to benefit Acadia.

“Acadia National Park is very special to me and my family and we are happy to support Friends of Acadia in this Centennial year. With this special challenge grant, we hope to encourage and inspire others to ‘give back’ to Acadia – a truly magical place,” said Martha Stewart in a statement, via the non-profit Friends group.

As of early this week, Friends of Acadia (FOA) is within $100,000 of raising the matching $1 million to complete the challenge from the Martha and Alexis Stewart Foundation, and within $200,000 of meeting the $25 million goal for the Second Century Campaign, to help secure Acadia National Park’s next 100 years.

The target fundraising deadline: Dec. 31, the end of the Acadia Centennial year. That means any donation you make between now and 11:59 PM EST on New Year’s Eve may be matched by Stewart, up to the remaining $100,000 for the full $1 million, and may help put FOA over the top for the $25 million campaign.

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Martha Stewart discovered this old millstone on Great Head, above Sand Beach, during a 2016 Thanksgiving weekend hike. (Photo courtesy of www.instagram.com/marthastewart48)

As Martha Stewart and others who have come to know Acadia have experienced, the park gives so much, with its historic trails and carriage roads, dramatic pink granite cliffs and breathtaking ocean and mountain views. Stewart shares her hikes in the park, and her trips to her Seal Harbor home, in The Martha Blog, subtitled “up close & personal,” and on her Instagram account.

“When she’s enjoying Acadia, she’s not Martha Stewart Omnimedia guru,” said Lisa Horsch Clark, FOA’s director of development and donor relations, who’s worked with the lifestyle and media entrepreneur over the years on efforts like FOA’s annual benefit auction.

“She’s a park lover like us,” said Clark.

Martha Stewart to help fund ‘Wild Acadia’ initiatives to protect park

The Stewart Foundation’s grant is to support the Second Century Campaign’s “Wild Acadia” initiatives, to restore watersheds impacted by invasive species, reduce threats to water quality, and improve stream flow for fish passage.

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The dawn of Acadia’s Second Century can be helped with the Friends of Acadia’s $25 million campaign, including a $1 million challenge grant from the Martha and Alexis Stewart Foundation. (Image courtesy of Friends of Acadia)

But other donors don’t have to specify “Wild Acadia” or any of the campaign’s other four initiatives to have their dollars matched by Stewart, according to Clark.

To make a contribution that may be eligible for deduction on your 2016 tax returns, a check needs to be dated and postmarked by Dec. 31. If donating online, the credit card charge needs to post by 11:59 PM EST that day, according to Clark. She recently blogged about ways people can contribute, whether to the Second Century Campaign as part of the $1 million Martha Stewart match, or the group’s Annual Fund.

The Second Century Campaign has been part of FOA’s Centennial planning for more than 2 years, with the target of raising $25 million by the end of this year, according to FOA president and CEO David MacDonald.

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Martha Stewart taking an early morning hike along Jordan Pond with her dogs in the summer of 2015. She noted signs of beaver activity along the pond on this hike. (Photo courtesy of www.themarthablog.com)

The campaign was publicly launched during FOA’s annual meeting in Bar Harbor on July 8, 2016, which was also the actual 100th anniversary of Acadia’s founding as Sieur de Monts National Monument. Stewart’s $1 million challenge started in early fall, and contributions will be matched dollar for dollar until that fundraising goal is met, even if it’s beyond the target Dec. 31 deadline.

“We’re right on schedule,” said MacDonald in an interview. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Aside from “Wild Acadia” initiatives to protect the park’s natural resources, the Second Century Campaign features the themes of “The Acadia Experience” (to address overcrowding); “Carriage Roads and Trails”; “Tomorrow’s Stewards” (to get more young people outdoors and involved in Acadia); and “Friends of Acadia Endowment.”

Honorary co-chairs of the campaign are former US Sen. George Mitchell and David Rockefeller Sr. (whose 100th birthday party was attended by Martha Stewart), and other campaign chairs are Anne Green, Rob Leary and Ann Rockefeller Roberts.

“I’m always surprised and pleased at how generous people are,” said MacDonald.

Federal underfunding of Acadia and NPS a 2nd century challenge

FOA’s Second Century Campaign comes at a time of continued underfunding of the National Park Service (NPS). For example, a deferred maintenance backlog reached $11.9 billion nationally as of the end of the 2015 federal fiscal year. Acadia’s share is $68.25 million.

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The National Park Service also celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2016 (NPS image)

Congress recently passed, and President Barack Obama signed into law, the National Park Service Centennial Act.

Among the measures to boost funding: Increase the cost of the lifetime interagency Senior Pass for US citizens or permanent residents age 62 and older, from $10 to $80; and the creation of an ongoing Centennial Challenge fund, but those dollars can’t be spent unless they are matched by private dollars.

Some critics of the legislation, drafted by US Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), say it passes off too much of the responsibility for supporting the parks onto the backs of seniors and private donors.

FOA’s MacDonald said he finds the passage of the act “encouraging,” but added, “We think it’s really important to have federal programs providing federal funding, to help match and leverage what private donors and Friends of Acadia members do.”

FOA donors don’t want their dollars to be a reason for federal underfunding or cutbacks, MacDonald said. “Overall, we believe in private philanthropy, but not at the expense of public support.”

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Friends of Acadia’s Web site shows what the group does, and ways to get involved. (Image courtesy of Friends of Acadia)

Even before the passage of the NPS Centennial Act, fiscal 2015 and 2016 Centennial Challenge projects have allowed Acadia to benefit from nearly $400,000, coming 50-50 from the federal government and FOA. The projects include rehabilitation of Deer Brook and other hiking trails, restoration of historic carriage road vistas, and reaching out to 4th graders.

But those amounts – even along with the $1 million challenge grant by Martha Stewart and her daughter Alexis, and other private donations – may seem a drop in the bucket compared to Acadia’s $68.25 million maintenance backlog, let alone any other park funding shortfalls, or growing needs with increasing popularity.

“It’s really on all of us to keep that public-private partnership,” said FOA’s MacDonald, and to ensure that public dollars don’t shrink as private funds are raised.

Enjoying Acadia and community, vicariously, with Martha Stewart

Not everyone is a fan of Martha Stewart’s, based on comments we sometimes receive when we share her blog posts and Instagram photos on Acadia on My Mind’s Facebook page. Some are surprised she hikes. Others say some local residents aren’t Martha supporters.

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Martha Stewart enjoys the carriage roads with David Rockefeller Sr. and other friends. (Photo courtesy of www.facebook.com/marthastewart/)

She has had her professional and personal ups and downs, as has been publicly chronicled over the years.

But Acadia on My Mind admits to a fascination with Martha Stewart.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that one of us shares the same alma mater, Barnard College.

Or that Martha Stewart faced rocky times, paid her dues and redeemed herself.

Or that she’s pushing the edge of the cultural envelope with a new celebrity cooking show on VH-1, “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,” with rapper and medical marijuana entrepreneur Snoop Dogg, which has just been renewed for a second season.

Or maybe it’s because we share a passion for Acadia, and want to give back in our own small way, by being an Acadia Centennial Partner, and blogging about the people and place.

Aside from her support for Friends of Acadia, there are other ways Martha Stewart gives back to the community:

  • In 2005, she was honorary race starter for the Mount Desert Island Marathon, which passes by her home on Cooksey Drive. She’s had Gary Allen, MDI Marathon race director, on one of her shows talking about the race. And she’s featured Gary’s wife, Lisa Hall, and her seaglass jewelry in her TV show and magazine.

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    Martha Stewart served as honorary race starter for the 2005 Mount Desert Island Marathon. (Photo courtesy of www.runmdi.org)

  • She often highlights area businesses in her blog posts about her visits to Skylands, such as Havana in Bar Harbor (where President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama had also dined during their July 2010 family vacation)
  • Her home is often the setting for fundraisers for local non-profits, such as College of the Atlantic’s Champlain Society

And though we have hiked nearly all of Acadia’s more than 150 miles of trails in researching and writing this blog and our Falcon hiking guides – the 2016 edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” just won the National Outdoor Book Award – we still find interesting tidbits in Martha’s hiking adventures.

For instance, we’ve never come across the old millstone on Great Head just above Sand Beach, which Martha references in her Instagram account.

And we hadn’t realized the beaver activity along Jordan Pond, until we read Martha’s post about an early morning hike in the summer of 2015, and we saw fresh signs of such activity ourselves in the fall of 2016.

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Martha Stewart hikes Ocean Path with grandchildren Jude and Truman, during the 2015 Thanksgiving Day weekend. (Photo courtesy of www.themarthablog.com)

We’ll continue to be a reader of The Martha Blog, watching for posts about Skylands and Acadia, and Martha’s hikes with her daughter Alexis, her grandchildren Jude and Truman, other family and friends, and her dogs. We also enjoy reading about such events as her 75th birthday celebration at Skylands this past August, and other aspects of being Martha.

And if we happen to meet her on an Acadia hiking trail one day, we’d like to thank her for being a friend to Acadia, and for giving fellow lovers of Acadia like us the chance to make a donation as part of her $1 million challenge.

Over the next couple of days, we’ll be tallying the funds we’ve raised as Acadia Centennial Partners, from people who have made purchases on our online shop, participated in the 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek we sponsored, or run in the first-ever virtual MDI Marathon and Half that we co-sponsored with www.runmdi.org.

And we’ll be contributing a percentage of proceeds to the $1 million Martha Stewart challenge, and a percentage to the Friends of Acadia’s Annual Fund.

Giving back to Acadia, it’s a good thing.

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