Cookie Horner: A circle of caring, from Acadia to MDI youth

One in a series of Acadia Centennial features

Throughout her life, Nina “Cookie” Horner has been about caring – first, as a young girl, for Acadia National Park; then, as a nurse at the local hospital and high school, for a generation of youngsters born and raised on Mount Desert Island, until her retirement.

cookie horner

The love for Acadia National Park is an all-season family affair for Cookie Horner, center, and granddaughters Ellie McGee, 16, left, and Helena Munson, 18, right. They’re seen here cross-country skiing in January on the Upper Hadlock Loop of the carriage roads. (Photo courtesy of Cookie Horner)

Now, as co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force, she’s come full circle, helping to celebrate the past of the place she’s cared for so much, and inspire new generations with the same passion.

The task force, which Horner co-chairs with Jack Russell, has already approved more than 300 Acadia Centennial Partners, from big organizations like L.L. Bean and Maine Public Broadcasting Network, to individual artists and local businesses, to partake in and support the year-long celebration of the park’s 100th.

And nearly 100 events have been posted on the Centennial calendar, big events like the Somes Sound Windjammer Parade on Aug. 2 and the 10-day Acadia Winter Festival that starts Feb. 26, to intimate ones like the One Park – One Read, a series of reading sessions for children and adults at local libraries this winter.

“There’s been an incredible outpouring of support for Acadia,” says Horner. The Centennial also presents opportunities for local residents to show “community pride in this beautiful place,” and for visitors to “discover something new.”

Cookie Horner came to care for Acadia as a ‘year-round summer girl’

cookie horner

Cookie Horner lives so close to Acadia, a moose that passed by her home’s picture window (in background) is thought to be the same one photographed on top of Youngs Mountain a short time later. (Photo courtesy of Cookie Horner)

Originally from Pennsylvania, Horner summered as a young girl with her family on Mount Desert Island. She fell so in love with the place, she moved permanently to the area when she was 25. “I’m a year-round summer girl,” she says.

“How could we be this lucky, to live in a place like this?” says Horner, whose husband, William, a retired general surgeon, is president of the Mount Desert Island Historical Society. “I wondered when I was younger whether it would be commonplace if I lived here. Never!”

Her enthusiasm for Acadia is so infectious, you can imagine Horner inspiring not only her children and grandchildren, but also the generation of kids she helped bring into this world as a labor and delivery nurse at Mount Desert Island Hospital, and then cared for in her 17 years as Mount Desert Island High School nurse.

Horner says she particularly enjoys the carriage road around Witch Hole Pond, the hike up Huguenot Head and Champlain and the Deer Brook Trail to Penobscot Mountain. Winter is no obstacle, either, as she recently cross-country skied the Upper Hadlock Loop of the carriage roads with 2 of her granddaughters, Ellie McMGee, 16, and Helena Munson, 18.

Acadia is practically right in her backyard. In fact, so close is her home to some of the park’s peaks, a moose that walked right by her picture window may have been the very same one that was photographed on nearby Youngs Mountain a few days later, in August 2012, by Donald P. Lenahan, author of a book and blog about Acadia’s memorials.

moose in acadia national park

This moose, photographed on Youngs Mountain in August 2012, may have been the same one that walked by Cookie Horner’s picture window days earlier. (Photo courtesy of Donald P. Lenahan)

“I never tire of it,” Horner says.

She is also tireless in her caring for Acadia. Before becoming co-chair of the task force, she’d been on the board of the non-profit Friends of Acadia, served as a trail crew leader, and volunteered as a member of “Waldron’s Warriors,” trained to maintain Acadia’s unique Bates-style cairns, first designed by pathmaker Waldron Bates in the early 1900s.

No task is too small. Among the things she’s done to care for the trails and carriage roads: Rake leaves and weed between the coping stones along the carriage roads; cut back low-hanging branches and brush along trails; open up historic vistas; replant vegetation between campsites at Blackwoods Campground; remove invasive species like garlic mustard; and mow the grass around the Islesford Museum on Little Cranberry Isle.

“I like all of it really,” says Horner.

And while she’s out on the trails or carriage roads, enjoying or maintaining them, she relishes every chance to share with people how they can care for Acadia as well, by not messing around with the Bates-style cairns, by joining the Friends of Acadia, or by dropping in on the regularly scheduled volunteer sessions while they’re on vacation.

Centennial logo for Acadia National Park

The official Acadia Centennial logo

“It’s a neat opportunity to interact with visitors,” says Horner. “It’s great education.”

In many ways, the circle of caring never ends, because in giving, you receive, so you can give again.

So it is with Horner’s relationship with Acadia, Cookie’s circle of caring.

Next in the series: Profile of Jack Russell, co-chair of the Acadia Centennial Task Force. Acadia on My Mind is an official Acadia Centennial Partner.