BAR HARBOR – Pulled up to town at 1:30 a.m. Thursday, because we just had to be in Acadia on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, to celebrate the park and the new Maine Woods national monument inspired by it.
As we hiked the trails of Acadia throughout the day, wishing strangers “Happy 100th” and joining up with friends, we not only commemorated the gift of Acadia, but also the latest addition to the National Park Service, the new Maine Woods national monument.
Since the spring, we’d suspected President Barack Obama might do what Woodrow Wilson did 100 years ago: Use the Antiquities Act to create a new Maine Woods national monument, just as Wilson had in creating the monument that became Acadia on July 8, 1916.
At an Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up we hosted in Bar Harbor in early June, a couple of well-connected locals told us that it was going to happen. One source even thought President Obama might come back to Acadia to make the announcement, since he and his family seemed to enjoy their vacation here in July 2010.
Obama vacationed at national parks out west instead, but in a speech at Yosemite last month about his administration’s record of land protection, he said, “We are not done yet.”
In an article we wrote on his speech, we speculated that he might have been referring to the national monument in Maine.
Sure enough, on Aug. 24, the eve of the National Park Service’s Centennial, President Obama created the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. So far, the Obama administration has protected more than 265 million acres, more than any other president, from the North Woods of Maine to the San Gabriel Mountains in California, using the same 1906 Antiquities Act that Theodore Roosevelt wielded to protect Grand Canyon as a national monument first.
Acadia inspired the new Maine Woods national monument
Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation – the private nonprofit formed by his mother Roxanne Quimby, founder of Burt’s Bees, to own and then gift the 87,500 acres of land in northern Maine – told us in May that Acadia was “absolutely” the source of the idea.
“It was inspired by the leadership President Woodrow Wilson had to create Acadia. It was a huge inspiration to me and my family as well as the other national monuments that were created around the country that led to national parks including Grand Canyon and Zion and the Olympic Peninsula. These are America’s crown jewels. They were created at one time initially as national monuments. That is certainly the source of our inspiration,” St. Clair told us during an extensive interview.
Aside from the parallels between Acadia’s initial protection and the new Maine Woods national monument, these other ties bind the Acadia and Katahdin regions:
- In the weeks before the donation of 87,500 acres for the Katahdhin Woods and Waters National Monument, Quimby donated 100 acres to Acadia National Park, to celebrate the park’s Centennial. The 13 parcels of land had been among the privately owned acreage within the park’s borders that had been identified for acquisition. Quimby’s Elliotsville Plantation purchased the land as it came on the market, with the plan to donate it to Acadia.
- Acadia-area residents and officials volunteer and vacation in the Katahdin region. For example, 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. And Gary Allen, founder and race director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, started a free Millinocket Marathon to help the Katahdin region’s depressed economy, and happened to be up there measuring the 26.2-mile course as a Boston Marathon qualifier when news about the new national monument came down.
- 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.
For visitors to Maine, Acadia National Park and the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument would be a perfect combination to see Vacationland in all its diversity, from the rockbound coastline to the deep North Woods.
Less than 3 hours north of Bar Harbor, the North Woods national monument encompasses a “wild landscape offering spectacular views of Mount Katahdin” and “invites discovery of its rivers, streams, woods, flora, fauna, geology, and the night skies that have attracted humans for millennia,” according to the National Park Service Web page that has already been created.
The Quimby gift, valued at $100 million, includes $20 million for the new monument’s initial operations and infrastructure development, plus $20 million in future philanthropic support, according to a White House fact sheet on the new national monument.
The 87,500 acres includes “the stunning East Branch of the Penobscot River and a portion of the Maine Woods that is rich in biodiversity and known for its outstanding opportunities to hike, canoe, hunt, fish, snowmobile, snowshoe and cross-country ski,” according to the White House. “In addition to protecting spectacular geology, significant biodiversity and recreational opportunities, the new monument will help support climate resiliency in the region. The protected area – together with the neighboring Baxter State Park to the west – will ensure that this large landscape remains intact, bolstering the forest’s resilience against the impacts of climate change.”
While the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument won’t offer the same experience that draws nearly 3 million visitors to Acadia every year, it will offer what Acadia may not, especially during its busiest season: Solitude, wilderness and, perhaps, the chance to see a moose.