From being named America’s favorite place to hosting US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, from setting record visitation numbers to launching Centennial celebration plans, Acadia National Park made news in 2014.
Here are the top 10 stories in Acadia on My Mind’s opinion:
1. Acadia No. 1 – Viewers of “Good Morning America” named Acadia as their favorite place in July, while USA Today readers voted Acadia as the top national park, ahead of Glacier and Yellowstone, earlier that same month.
2. Record-breaking October – With more than 313,000 visitors that month, Acadia recorded its highest ever October visitation. Park officials attributed the bump up to good weather, peak foliage, increasing cruise ship traffic and national media attention.
3. Island Explorer sets records – For the first time, more than 500,000 passengers took the popular fare-free shuttle bus during a season, as we reported first in this blog on Oct. 29. The bus system marked another milestone on June 30, when it carried its 5 millionth passenger, an Otter Creek high school student commuting to her summer job in Bar Harbor.
4. US Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visits – In her first trip to Acadia since being named interior secretary, Jewell joined National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis in promoting a program between the park service and the nonprofit Schoodic Institute involving youth and science research. Jewell also shared a personal story about her first visit to Acadia as a college student, and her concerns about global warming, and inspiring the next generation of rangers, wildlife biologists and supporters of national parks.
5. New trails and major trail work – On June 7, National Trails Day, the Otter Cove and Quarry Trails were officially opened, creating a network that allows campers at Blackwoods to hike directly to Gorham Mountain and other areas in the park. The planned improvement of a couple of Otter Creek historic village connector trails open up even more hiking opportunities in the area, not only for campers, but also for Otter Creek residents and visitors. A major federal grant allowed the hiring of the most trail workers in 80 years and major rehabilitation of Gorge Path and the Asticou Trail. A smaller nonprofit grant led to better protection of the fragile summit of Sargent Mountain.
6. 20th anniversary of Hawk Watch and Artist-in-Residence Program – For the last 20 years, park officials, volunteers and visitors have been helping to document migrating raptors, part of a national effort to monitor the health of bird populations. Hawk Watch is now a collaborative effort between the park’s interpretive division and the nonprofit Schoodic Institute’s bird ecology program; it also gets support from the Friends of Acadia. The Artist-in-Residence Program at Acadia National Park, which accepts 12 to 20 artists annually, also marked its 20th anniversary this year. That program, also a collaboration between the Schoodic Institute and the park, provides artists with free lodging on the Schoodic Education and Research Center campus. In return, they are asked to provide a public program for each week of residency, and to donate a representative work to help raise funds for the program.
7. Banner year for peregrine falcons – Chicks fledged at four sites, at Jordan Cliffs, the precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain, Valley Cove cliffs and on privately owned Ironbound Island, where the park holds a conservation easement. It might be the first time that particular combination of four sites was home during the same year to peregrine fledglings, according to park officials.
8. Pushing to protect puffins – Although too far offshore to be visible from Acadia, puffins have so captured the public imagination,visitors to the park often ask rangers where they can see the seabirds with the colorful beaks. That connection between Acadia, the public and puffins may help account for the Acadia National Park Community’s Facebook page sharing encouraging news about a higher percentage of fledglings on Maine puffin islands this summer, and the resulting 800 Facebook likes. And it may also help account for the community’s Facebook page sharing our blog post about stalled efforts to expand federal wilderness designation to some of Maine’s puffin islands, despite this year being the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
9. Planning for Acadia Centennial celebration kicks off – With the unveiling of the Acadia National Park Centennial Logo in May, and the finalizing of ways to become an Acadia Centennial Partner in September, the planning for the Centennial is well under way. More than 40 partners have been lined up so far by the park and Friends of Acadia. The year 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of Acadia initially as Sieur de Monts National Monument, and also of the National Park Service.
10. New Isle au Haut and historic vista management plans – For the first time in years, the park service has updated the maximum number of visitors to Isle au Haut in its revised management plan for the least visited part of the park, increasing it from 120 to 128 a day. And also for the first time in years, the park is restoring historic road side views as part of a vista management plan.
One last item worth noting in a year-in-review round-up, even if it’s not an official news story: Acadia on My Mind started as a blog in 2014.
From the first post on May 24, about the unveiling of the Acadia National Park Centennial Logo, to this, our 47th, we’ve learned a lot about blogging, social media and Acadia.
We hope you’ve gotten as much out of reading our blog as we have in researching and writing it over the past year.
Onward to 2015 and beyond!