Category Archives: History

If not for Earth Day, imagine a silent spring in Acadia

As millions around the world mark Earth Day, imagine what Acadia National Park would be like without the banning of DDT, the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts, or any of the other changes since that first massive showing of environmental activism in 1970:

peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon chicks, like this one being banded on the Precipice of Champlain Mountain, would not be taking flight in Acadia, if not for the banning of DDT and the passage of the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. (NPS Photo / Erickson Smith)

  • – No peregrine falcons nesting on the Precipice of Champlain
  • – Hazy views atop Cadillac
  • – Declining loon populations
  • – Acidified ponds that can’t support certain aquatic life
  • A silent spring in Acadia, with no birdsong

On this Earth Day and beyond, whether you’re marching for science in Washington on April 22 or for climate change action in Bar Harbor on April 29, or you’re volunteering for the Friends of Acadia’s annual roadside clean-up later this month, just imagine what a silent spring in Acadia would be like.

clean air act

Acadia webcam images show the impact of air pollution on the views. The Clean Air Act has helped improve visibility. (NPS Photo)

And imagine, too, what rising sea levels could mean to Acadia, as climate change worries join the ranks of environmental concerns like pesticides, mercury contamination, acid rain and acid fog, and air pollution.

As our way of marking Earth Day, of science’s contribution to protecting the environment of Acadia for people, plants and wildlife, and of the challenges like climate change still to be faced, we gather here some resources to remind us of how far we have come, and how much further we have to go.

May this listing, although not exhaustive, help spur reflection, respect, and action, in honor of Earth Day and Acadia. Continue reading

For Women’s History Month, stories of women of Acadia

UPDATED 3/31/2017: Beatrix Farrand and other notable women of Acadia, past and present, added to blog post.

If you know a little of the history of Acadia National Park, you know who the “father of Acadia” is. But less well-known are the women who were also critical in the early days, by donating land and money or otherwise helping to shape the park.

Eliza Homans

Eliza Homans gave the first large parcel of land that would become Acadia National Park, including the Beehive and the Bowl. (NPS photo)

In celebration of Women’s History Month, observed in March, here are some of the stories of the women of Acadia, who perhaps could be called the “mothers of Acadia.”

Eliza Homans – Whether you ask Catherine Schmitt, author of the 2016 book, “Historic Acadia National Park,” or Marie C. Yarborough, Acadia’s curator and cultural resources and interpretation liaison, one of the main women of Acadia to remember and appreciate: Eliza Homans.

“Previous histories of the park made only brief mention of the first land donation, the Bowl and Beehive tract, by a ‘Mrs. Charles Homans’,” said Schmitt in an e-mail. “Her story is important in part because she was the first of many, many property owners, women and men, who donated or sold land to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, the predecessor of the park. Their names are memorialized in trails and monuments, but they are often absent from the perspective of popular park histories.”

And as Acadia’s Yarborough e-mailed us last month, in describing her mission to expand the cultural stories and histories of the park beyond George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia”; the Rockefellers; the French explorers; the Civilian Conservation Corps; and the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations:

cathere schmitt

Catherine Schmitt’s “Historic Acadia National Park” includes stories of women who helped shape the park, such as Eliza Homans. (Image courtesy of Lyons Press and Catherine Schmitt; NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

“I push to recognize that there are OTHER stories to tell at the same time, and we need to open up our narrative to tell them. Like, women in Acadia? Eliza Homans…first large gift of land to Acadia was from a woman! We never hear about the women who were working to make this place Acadia,” e-mailed Yarborough, in response to our questions for an earlier blog post, about black history in Acadia. “Oh, there are lots of stories to tell. I just need the time and space to find them.”

In May 1908, Eliza Homans gave title to the 140 acres surrounding the Beehive and the Bowl to the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, commenting that if she didn’t donate the land for preservation, “my grandchildren may find a ‘Merry-Go-Round’ established there!”, according to Schmitt’s history and Ronald H. Epp’s 2016 biography of Dorr.

Next time you scale the Beehive, or look up at it from Sand Beach, and the next time you hike up to the mountain pond known as the Bowl, give thanks to Eliza Homans. And think of her, too, when you climb Homans Path up Dorr Mountain.

Continue reading

Revealing the hidden figures of black history in Acadia

More than 200 years ago, a free African American named Thomas Frazer settled at what is now a picnic area in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. He fished, farmed and operated a salt works, and was the first non-Native American resident of the area.

black history in Acadia

A close-up of the Frazer Point Picnic Area wayside exhibit reveals a little bit about Thomas Frazer, a free African American who first showed up in the 1790 federal census. (Photo by Jana Matusz, NPS volunteer)

It’s a little-known aspect of black history in Acadia and surrounding communities, along with the rarely told stories of the Bar Harbor visits by NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois and black educator Booker T. Washington in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Frazer’s story is briefly shared on a relatively new wayside exhibit at the Frazer Point Picnic Area.

While the National Park Service marks African American History Month every February by commemorating the civil rights struggles, it’s barely scratching the surface in relating other aspects of black history in Acadia and other national parks.

“Tell the full story,” said Audrey Peterman, an advocate of diversity in national parks, who has visited Acadia several times and had never heard about Frazer until contacted by Acadia on My Mind, and who only learned recently of DuBois’s visit to Bar Harbor.

“If you’re going to reach out to black people and brown people, you’re not going to reach them with the Rockefeller story…,” said Peterman, who blogs about diversity and parks for Huffington Post. “You reach them with the Thomas Frazer story, the W.E.B. DuBois story.”

audrey peterman

Audrey Peterman became an advocate of connecting all Americans to public lands after visiting Acadia. But she didn’t learn of Thomas Frazer until now, and says his story needs to be told. (Photo courtesy of Audrey Peterman)

“It would be nice if the park could do more,” agreed Allen K. Workman, who included Frazer’s story in his 2014 book, “Schoodic Point: History on the Edge of Acadia National Park.” (NOTE: See sidebar about Amazon.com links)

But he said he didn’t fault the park for focusing more on rich Rusticators who gave land for the park, than on Frazer, the history of quarrying and Italian immigrants to the area, or other lesser known aspects of the past. “Their resources are spread pretty thin.” Continue reading

Message to the future in Acadia time capsule, for year 2116

Centennial logo for Acadia National Park

The official Acadia Centennial logo

If you celebrated the Acadia Centennial, you won’t be there for the opening of the Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule in the year 2116. But you can hand down the generations the story of how you marked the 100th, and how there may be evidence of it in a special steel box in the Bar Harbor Bank & Trust lobby.

If you participated in an Acadia Centennial event, like Take Pride in Acadia Day, Park Science Day, or the Acadia Centennial Trek, your descendants may find a digital photo from the event, with you in it, in that specially manufactured Acadia time capsule.

acadia national park hiking

Digital photo of Acadia Centennial Trek participants James Linnane, Shelley Dawson, Maureen Fournier, Acadia on My Mind and Kristy Sharp on the sand bar to Bar Island, is included in the Acadia time capsule. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

(Go to bottom of story to see a complete list of items by name in the Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule.)

Or if you bought an official Centennial product, like the 2016 Acadia calendar by Bob Thayer, the Anatomy of a Bates Cairn T-shirt by Moira O’Neill and Judy Hazen Connery, or the Acadia Centennial Trek Medal, your descendants may find that very same item in the time capsule.

Watch the Facebook livestream of the installation of the time capsule today, Feb. 3, beginning at 1:30 p.m., featuring remarks by Bar Harbor Bankshares president and CEO Curtis C. Simard; Acadia superintendent Kevin Schneider; Friends of Acadia president David MacDonald; Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule Working Group co-chair Charles Stanhope; and Acadia Centennial Task Force co-chair Jack Russell. The video of the half-hour event can be viewed after the fact as well at the Acadia National Park Centennial 2016 Facebook page.

While we won’t be there to bear witness at the installation of the Acadia time capsule today, or at its unsealing in 2116, we’re proud – and tickled pink – to have a digital copy of the 3rd edition of our “Hiking Acadia National Park” book, along with digital photos of the Acadia Centennial Trek, included in that stainless steel box.

acadia centennial

A digital photo of the Acadia Centennial Trek Medal, still available for sale to help raise funds for the park, is included in the Acadia time capsule.

We plan to bring family members and friends to visit the Acadia time capsule in the bank lobby, bearing a copy of our hiking book and wearing an Acadia Centennial Trek Medal, to take a photo for posterity, perhaps once a year, for as long as possible. And may that be a message to the future, about how our generation appreciated Acadia, and about how we hope the park is as loved 100 years from now.

To see whether any of the Centennial events you attended or products you purchased are included in the Acadia time capsule, check out the list of items by name, based on information provided by the Acadia Centennial Task Force: Continue reading

In a final act, Obama calls for diversity in Acadia, other parks

On the eve of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, in one of his last official acts, President Barack Obama directed the Department of the Interior and other top agencies to hire a more diverse workforce, and attract broader segments of the US population to federal public lands.

President Barack Obama hikes Acadia National Park

President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to visit Acadia National Park, hiked Cadillac with his family in July 2010 (White House photo)

Obama issued the edict in the form of a Presidential Memorandum, which is as binding as an Executive Order, according to legal specialists. The memo aims for greater diversity in Acadia and other national parks, national forests and other public lands and waters.

“That’s a big deal,” said Audrey Peterman, a member of the Next 100 Coalition of environmental and civil rights groups that petitioned Obama in 2016, the year of the National Park Service Centennial, to call for a more inclusive vision of stewardship of America’s public lands for the next 100 years. “We’re not going to be turned back.”

The memo by Obama, the first sitting president to visit Acadia, also comes after years of reports showing the National Park Service lagging in efforts to diversify its workforce, and less interest among some minority populations in visiting federal public lands, compared with white Americans or even foreign visitors.

audrey peterman

Audrey Peterman was so moved by the beauty of Cadillac when she first visited with her husband Frank in 1995, she became an advocate of connecting public lands to all Americans, no matter their race, creed or religion. (Photo courtesy of Audrey Peterman)

A 2011 report, “The National Park Service Comprehensive Survey of the American Public,” found African Americans the most “under-represented” visitor group, with Hispanic Americans not too far behind. The “2016 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government®”, released last month, ranks the National Park Service 284 out of 304 agencies when it comes to support for diversity, a slight improvement over the previous annual survey sponsored by the non-profit, non-partisan Partnership for Public Service.

For Peterman, an American of African and Jamaican descent, her life’s work of pushing for diversity in Acadia and other public lands came to her on the top of Cadillac Mountain, on her first visit more than 20 years ago.
Continue reading

Acadia Centennial helps draw record 3.2 million park visitors

The Acadia Centennial has helped attract more than 3.2 million visitors so far to the national park this year, capped by record attendance for October.

acadia national park hiking

Views like these along Jordan Pond in October helped draw record crowds to Acadia this year.

An eye-popping 412,416 people visited during October, up 19.8 percent from last year’s monthly record of 344,362, according to statistics from the National Park Service.

Through October, visitors during the Acadia Centennial totaled 3.234 million, up 17.7 percent from last year. Depending on the weather, visitation could total 3.3 million for this year, said John T. Kelly, management assistant for Acadia.

Kelly said visitation this year reached 3 million for the first time since at least 1990, when the park changed the way it counts visitors. The previous record since 1990 was 2.845 million in 1995, according to the federal statistics.

Some good aspects of the crowds are that people came to enjoy the park and the park therefore collected more revenues from entrance fees and local businesses saw a boost, but the downsides include traffic congestion during peak periods.

crowds in acadia

Crowds in Acadia can make for an unpleasant experience as seen here on the Park Loop Road and Ocean Path. (NPS photo)

Visitation during the summer of the Acadia Centennial produced some staggering numbers.  In September, visitation was 570,434, up 19 percent from the same month last year; August, 735,945, up 10 percent; July, 696,854, up 15 percent; and June, 445,410 up 24 percent.

Visitors to the Schoodic Peninsula, the only section of the park on the mainland, reached 276,233 through October, up 31 percent from 210,549 during the same 10 months last year. More people went to Schoodic because of the new Schoodic Woods Campground and more than 8 miles of new bike paths.
Continue reading

Jordan Pond a special fall experience at Acadia National Park

One in a series of historic trail highlights celebrating the Acadia Centennial

The path around Jordan Pond is an ideal hike for any time of year but it is especially beautiful in the fall.

acadia national park hiking

Fall colors light up the shore of Jordan Pond and the Bubbles.

The fall colors around Jordan Pond are spectacular if you catch them at peak, as we did on Saturday, Oct. 15.

We especially enjoyed the classic view of the North and South Bubbles, looking north from the southern shore near the Jordan Pond House, the only restaurant in Acadia National Park.

The pond is crystal clear, maybe because it is a public water supply and no swimming is allowed. The authoritative ” Guide’s Guide to Acadia National Park” says Jordan Pond is the “clearest lake” in Maine, but that could be difficult to corroborate.

The twin mountains called the Bubbles rise from the shore of the pond. North Bubble, at 872 feet, is ranked No. 13 for highest among Acadia National Park’s 26 peaks and South Bubble, at 766 feet and home to the iconic Bubble Rock, is No. 16.

acadia national park hiking

South Bubble bears a bit of a resemblance to The Beehive from this angle on the eastern shore of Jordan Pond. Both were shaped by the same glacial forces.

Like other lakes in Acadia, Jordan Pond is glacial, formed in a valley and then walled by debris.

The  “Guide’s Guide” says the Jordan Pond area contains a beautiful collection of glacial features. The massive valley between Penobscot Mountain, on the west side, and Pemetic Mountain, on the east side, filled with water to create the pond.

“The southern shore, where the Jordan Pond House sits, is a glacial moraine formed from glacial debris deposits,” the guide says. “These deposits form a wall at the southern end of the valley and create a natural dam that holds back the waters of Jordan Pond.” Continue reading

Waldron’s Warriors: Foot soldiers for Acadia hiking trails

On weekdays, Tim Henderson is a computer repairman. Come the weekend, he’s a Waldron’s Warrior, part of an army of volunteers battling vandalism of Acadia hiking trails, and teaching people about the park’s unique stone trail markers known as Bates cairns.

acadia national park hiking

As a Waldron’s Warrior, Tim Henderson helps to educate people about Bates cairns, and fixes damage to the stone trail markers by vandals. (Photo courtesy of Tim Henderson)

Officially, Ellen Dohmen chairs the Bar Harbor appeals board and serves on the advisory board of Healthy Acadia. Unofficially, she’s the doyenne of Waldron’s Warriors, having trained Henderson of Castine, Dave Hollenbeck of Mount Desert, and a cadre of other caretakers of cairns along Acadia hiking trails.

During peak season, James Linnane works at a Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce information booth. Off-peak, he climbs tough trails like Sargent East Cliffs, fixing cairns as he goes.

About 20 strong this year, the crew of volunteers is the brainchild of Charlie Jacobi, park natural resource specialist, who’s been working to stop the vandalism of Bates cairns, and random rock stacking that violates Leave No Trace® principles.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” said Jacobi, who first came up with the phrase Waldron’s Warriors in 2004, invoking the spirit of Waldron Bates, the Bar Harbor pathmaker who designed the cairns in the early 1900s, to recruit volunteers. “Warriors needed.”

cadillac south ridge trail

A vandal smashed and destroyed the lintel, or horizontal platform, of this Bates cairn, on the Cadillac South Ridge Trail. (Photo by Tim Henderson)

But at times it seems like a losing battle, especially with increased visitation this Centennial year. And it’s not just Acadia that’s facing vandalism of historic and natural resources. A few weeks ago, Death Valley National Park’s iconic Racetrack was defaced by a vehicle that drove across the playa, creating tire tracks that may take years to disappear.

The only thing is to soldier on, and that’s what Waldron’s Warriors do. Continue reading

Trail of history, tales of adventures in Acadia run thru Orono

ORONO, Me. – Carrying a map of Maine’s Ice Age Trail that he helped create, Harold W. Borns, Jr., shared some incredible stories about Acadia National Park geology during a recent Centennial event at the Dirigo Pines Retirement Community.

adventures in acadia

Joan Netland and Harold W. Borns., Jr., shared stories of their adventures in Acadia during an Acadia Centennial event at Dirigo Pines Retirement Community in Orono.

His friend Joan Netland brought some amazing memories from decades ago, of adventures in Acadia when she was a young woman.

She talked about a summer hike around Eagle Lake with a friend when they became desperate and dehydrated on the then-more-wild carriage roads and were forced to stop strangers for a drink of water or a ride on a bike. She also told a harrowing story about becoming disoriented and hiking down the wrong side of Beech Mountain after visiting the fire tower during the days it was staffed by lookouts.

During a presentation that was part of an official Acadia Centennial event, some of the about two dozen Dirigo Pines residents in the audience told stories about being among the first Friends of Acadia members, while others shared tales of knowing some of the early architects of the park.

adventures in acadia

Amanda Smith, life enrichment director at Dirigo Pines, helped coordinate the Acadia Centennial event, “Adventures in Acadia.”

We were there to share our adventures in Acadia, as co-authors of Falcon hiking guides to the national park and writers of this blog, during the free event at the retirement community. Amanda Smith, life enrichment director of Dirigo Pines, invited us to speak after reading our blog in the Bangor Daily News.

But little did we know that the audience would have even more interesting adventures in Acadia to share with us, than we with them. Continue reading

Acadia National Park hiking books eye history, aid park

Like a tour guide through time, generations of Acadia National Park hiking books shed light on historic trails, from volumes dating back to the late 1800s, all the way through the Centennial edition of our “Hiking Acadia National Park.”

Hiking Acadia National Park

The 3rd edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” is being donated to Acadia-area libraries, historical societies and village improvement associations. Autographed copies available for purchase directly from the authors help raise funds for Acadia.

To celebrate that past, we as Acadia Centennial Partners are donating copies of our 3 editions of Acadia National Park hiking guides to more than a dozen Acadia-area libraries, historical societies and village improvement associations. The letters announcing the donation went out last week, and the books can be made available for lending or added to a research collection.

And to help fund the future, we are donating at least 5% of gross proceeds from sales of the latest edition of our books via our online shop to benefit the park, as another aspect of our Centennial partnership. The official Acadia Centennial product pages for “Hiking Acadia National Park” and “Best Easy Day HIkes, Acadia National Park” went live last week as well.

Maybe it’s a bit early to call the 1st edition of “Hiking Acadia National Park” historic, since it came out in 2001.

But when we found a family referring to that edition just a few weeks ago in the Beech Cliff parking lot, we jokingly described it to them as just that.

acadia centennial

Acadia on My Mind also sponsors the free year-long virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek, with this optional finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park.

We hope that one day, perhaps the 3rd edition of the book may be viewed that way.

Published by FalconGuides in April, it was included in the reading list of the special Acadia collector’s edition of DownEast Magazine, with this recommendation: “An encyclopedic take on Acadia’s trail system, from quiet nature walks to heart-pounding cliff climbs.”

And it would be our choice for the Acadia Bicentennial Time Capsule, if we do indeed have a chance to contribute, as Acadia Centennial Task Force co-chair Jack Russell has suggested. On Dec. 10, the capsule is being sealed at a celebratory event at the Criterion Theatre, to be opened in 2116. Continue reading

Endangered falcons take the stage at Acadia National Park

Endangered falcons gave birth to 11 chicks this year at Acadia National Park and now are putting on a show for hundreds of visitors to the park.

endangered falcons

Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang shows visitors the location of the endangered falcons and their nest during peregrine watch in Acadia National Park.

On Saturday alone, about 160 people stopped to catch the action of  the state-listed endangered falcons  at a “peregrine watch” site in the Precipice Trail parking area below a nest high on the east face of Champlain Mountain.

“We got a bird up,” said Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang, pointing to the cliffs when one of the endangered falcons flew back to the nest after a brief absence. “It’s a really nice look at an adult in this scope right now.”

Wolfgang and Samuel Ruano, a peregrine falcon interpretive guide and raptor intern, supervised the use of two spotting scopes that allow visitors some excellent views of the peregrine falcons. Wolfgang and Ruano also spoke frequently to visitors about the history of the peregrines in the park and the need to temporarily close popular hiking trails to give the nestlings time to mature.

With the scopes, visitors could clearly see a peregrine falcon perched upright on the cliff face outside the nest or even the nestlings themselves.

“Amazing,” said Keith Spencer, a grade 7 English teacher in the public schools of Everett, MA, after he looked through the scope and saw a falcon. Continue reading

Following in the footsteps of George Dorr, “father of Acadia”

From the top of Cadillac to the garden-like paths around Sieur de Monts, from the stacks at Jesup Memorial Library to the labs of 2 major research institutions on Mount Desert Island, the presence of George Dorr can be felt.

george dorr

Ronald H. Epp’s biography of George Dorr is published by the Friends of Acadia.

Not only was Dorr the “father of Acadia,” he had a hand in creating Bar Harbor’s public library, the Wild Gardens of Acadia and surrounding paths, MDI Biological and Jackson laboratories, and Abbe Museum. George Dorr even played a role in renaming some of the 26 peaks of Acadia, among them Green and Robinson to the now-iconic Cadillac and Acadia mountains.

These, and other fascinating aspects of the life and impact of Dorr, can be found in historian Ronald H. Epp’s new Dorr biography, “Creating Acadia National Park,” published by the Friends of Acadia on the occasion of the park’s Centennial.

The more than 2 million visitors a year who come from across the country and around the world to admire the beauty of Acadia National Park have George Dorr, in large part, to thank. Yet Dorr’s story and the role he played in shaping Acadia, conservation, Mount Desert Island and beyond, have been largely untold – until now.

“Dorr was not a major historical figure,” writes Epp in his introduction to the first-ever biography of Dorr. “Nor was he recognized as an administrator jockeying for ever-more important positions of responsibility. Unlike John Muir, his published writings did not transform national policy.”

George B. Dorr is father of Acadia National Park

George Dorr’s spirit lives on in this historic photo, which was once on display at the Sieur de Monts area of  Acadia National Park.

Yet, Epp writes, “this grand old man of the National Park Service on Mount Desert Island brought about a federal investment in the conservation of nearly half the landmass of the island. The resultant loss of property tax revenue was offset by the ever-growing number of visitors that clearly contributed to village prosperity. At the county level, Dorr extended the scope of Acadia National Park beyond Mount Desert Island, to other shorelines and islands within Hancock County.”

The legacy of the Boston Brahmin and lifelong bachelor, who used his energy, connections and family wealth to create Acadia, lives on not only along the trails he helped build, from Beachcroft Path to Kurt Diederich’s Climb, or atop the coastal peaks and ridgelines he helped preserve.

Dorr’s gift to the generations can also be felt in the region’s cultural and scientific institutions, and even offers a perspective on the current debate over the attempt by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and family, to donate private land for a national monument or park in Maine’s North Woods. Continue reading

The call of Acadia brings organizer Jack Russell home

One in a series of Acadia Centennial features

Jack Russell spent a lifetime organizing people and heeding the call of public service. He didn’t stop when he returned 10 years ago to live year round in the home where he was raised on Mount Desert Island.

jack russell

Jack Russell, co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, helps organize volunteers during the annual Take Pride in Acadia Day, to get carriage roads ready for winter. (Photo courtesy of Jack Russell)

Russell, 72, is co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, which is organizing the celebration of Acadia National Park’s 100th anniversary this year.

A son of geneticists recognized for their work around the world, Russell came back to Maine with his wife, Sandy Wilcox, and moved into a home his family has owned since 1937 at the north end of Echo Lake.

Though he worked in government and private nonprofits in Michigan much of his life, Russell said his longing for Acadia was powerful and he returned virtually every summer for a vacation.

“Whatever zip code I lived in, I was very clear where my home was and I was clear I would be coming back,” he said. Continue reading

Message in the rocks: Acadia’s Bates cairns get new focus

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

Long the target of vandals and errant hikers, the historic cairns of Acadia National Park are the focus of new efforts to recognize and preserve them.

A Bates-style cairn, located off the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

A Bates cairn, located on the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

Moira O’Neill of Surry and Ranger Judy Hazen Connery have worked together to design an “Anatomy of a Bates Cairn” T-shirt. O’Neill, a registered nurse and a volunteer who helps maintain the cairns, sells the T-shirts on Etsy  to help raise money for trail maintenance.

“If we educate people about the meaning or purpose of the Bates cairn … their attitude then will be to respect them and their purpose,” O’Neill said.

bates cairn

Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, center, explains the importance of protecting the Bates cairn at a recent community dinner at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, as part of his project to become an Eagle Scout. Accompanying him are fellow Boy Scouts Liam Higgins, his brother, and Jack Beckerley. (Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Troop 89)

As part of his project to become an Eagle Scout, Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, a senior at Mount Desert Island High School, is raising awareness by collecting signatures on a pledge to respect the cairns.

Higgins and other scouts are also selling the T-shirts for O’Neill’s fundraising for trail work.

The Bates-style cairns are special in the National Park Service and a key part of the history of the trails on Mount Desert Island. They are named for Waldron Bates, chair of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association Path Committee from 1900-1909, who first designed them. Continue reading

Acadia and Baxter ties may provide lessons for proposed park

On the surface, the story of the Acadia and Baxter regions might seem a tale of two communities.

katahdin

Katahdin’s Baxter Peak is the highest point in Maine, at 5,268 feet. George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia,” hiked Katahdin in 1925, before Baxter State Park came into being.

Baxter, a state park, is deep in Maine’s North Woods and distinguished by nearly mile-high Katahdin. Located more than 150 miles away, Acadia, the only national park in the Northeast, boasts much smaller mountains that hug the Atlantic Ocean.

Millinocket, the gateway to Baxter, faces double-digit unemployment with the closing of paper mills. Bar Harbor and other communities surrounding Acadia attract the well-known and wealthy.

But behind these seemingly different places are some historical and social ties that go back more than 100 years, and common challenges of balancing economic development, tourism and land preservation.

President Barack Obama hikes Acadia National Park

The beauty of Acadia has drawn generations of visitors, most notably President Barack Obama and family, seen here hiking the Cadillac Summit Loop in July 2010. (White House photo)

With the debate over a proposed new national park next to Baxter heating up, there may be lessons to be learned from the ties that bind Acadia and Baxter. Last month, a petition with 13,000 signatures in support of the national park proposal was delivered to Maine’s Congressional delegation. But facing opposition, backers are now trying the easier national monument designation, needing only presidential action.

First, the people connection between Acadia and Baxter. Over the years, area residents, visitors and park employees have made the trip from Mount Desert Island to the Katahdin region, or vice versa, hiking the trails, paddling the waters, supporting the economy, or otherwise giving back:

  • In 1925, George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia” and its first superintendent, climbed Katahdin with then-Maine Gov. Ralph Owen Brewster, whose predecessor in office, Percival Baxter, later bought and donated the land for what became Baxter State Park.
  • During the late 1800s, a young Theodore Roosevelt climbed the hills of Mount Desert Island, and also ascended the heights of Katahdin in the company of Maine guide Bill Sewall, whose home in Island Falls near Baxter is now a yoga retreat run by his great granddaughter.
  • Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist at Acadia National Park, served as president of the Friends of Baxter State Park for three years, and continues to be involved with that non-profit.

    Millinocket Marathon & Half

    Gary Allen, founder of Mount Desert Island Marathon, used this photo of Katahdin, as seen from Millinocket, on Facebook, to invite people to run the free inaugural Millinocket Marathon & Half, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. (Image courtesy of Gary Allen)

  • This Saturday, Dec. 12, Gary Allen, founder and director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, is hosting an impromptu free marathon and half marathon in Millinocket, requesting only that participants spend at least what they would have on race entry fees, at local businesses.

And here are some of the issues that have shaped Acadia and Baxter over the years, and that may still be relevant for today’s debate over Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby’s proposal, to donate what’s now known as Katahdin Woods & Water Recreation Area, as a new national park or national monument in Maine:  Continue reading