One in a series about Acadia National Park hiking trails
The trails crew has launched an overhaul of an historic path that connects the Jordan Pond area with the village of Seal Harbor, providing a new way to experience Acadia National Park hiking.
The work is being financed with donations to the nonprofit Friends of Acadia during an annual fundraising benefit last year. In a traditional “paddle raise,” sixty donors contributed a total of $318,000 to restore Seaside Path, according to Friends of Acadia.
There are no sweeping views from the path, but it is a “beautiful example” of a late 1800s to early 1900s gravel path for Acadia National Park hiking, said Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman at Acadia National Park. “It’s all woodland,” he said. “It’s nice mature forest.”
Stellpflug said Seaside Path is a village connector trail and will be the first newly-improved such trail for Acadia National Park hiking since Quarry and Otter Cove Trails were inaugurated on National Trails Day in 2014. The Quarry and Otter Cove Trails link the park’s Blackwoods Campground with the village of Otter Creek, Otter Cove and Gorham Mountain Trail.
A lot of Seaside Path is on private property and it is currently unclear exactly where it will terminate when the park is finished with the upgrade, he said. “We’re not sure where the south end will go,” he said.
Unlike the cliff and mountain climbs of Bar Harbor and Northeast Harbor, Seaside Path and other Seal Harbor trails go over “a gentler terrain,” according to the National Park Service’s “Pathmakers: Cultural Landscape Report for the Historic Hiking Trail System of Mount Desert Island.” As a result, “many woodland paths were surfaced with gravel or simply unconstructed, marked paths through the woods,” in contrast to those in the other villages, according to the report.
Seaside Path to be a gem in Acadia National Park hiking system
The little-known path links the Jordan Pond House with the beach at Seal Harbor. The path, about two miles long, starts near the employee dormitory for the Jordan Pond House and ends at paved Seaside Lane.
In a rare treat, the mostly-flat path takes hikers under one of the end arches of the triple-arch Stanley Brook Bridge. Completed in 1933, the bridge is part of the carriage road network and takes the Barr Hill-Day Mountain carriage road over Stanley Brook Road.
A side trail from the path leads to Barr Hill, but there was no view from ledges on the hill during a recent visit.
Stellpflug said the upgrade will follow the current route for about the northern two-thirds of the path, or until around the spot where it reaches a memorial to Edward Lothrop Rand, a Boston lawyer who was noted for co-authoring with botanist John Howard Redfield a late 19th century book on the botany of Mount Desert Island. Rand also served as the first chairman of the Path Committee for the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society, from 1900 to 1907.
During a visit to Seaside Path, Harold Read, a trail worker at Acadia National Park, said work began on May 1.
“This trail was almost non-existent,” Read said. “It was an old trail that fell into disuse.”
Three things – “water, water, water” – have damaged Seaside Path, as well as other trails for Acadia National Park hiking, over the years, he said. To repair a trail, “you get the water out of the trail or the trail out of the water,” he said.
To do that, the crew is adding new plastic culverts to channel water underneath Seaside Path. To make it look historic, natural and pleasing, each end of the culvert is capped with granite rocks and the plastic is concealed.
Using a Canycom track carrier, trail workers are dumping crushed stone as a base for the trail and then will later top it with a layer of dirt mixed with broken pieces of pink granite.
The goal is to have the path look the same as it did when it opened about a century ago, and was used by the Rusticators, he said. “The day we’re done, people will look at this and think it’s a 100-year-old trail,” Read said.
Taking a break from grubbing the trail with a hoe, Larissa Fullmer, a veteran NPS trail maintenance worker from San Diego who is working for the first time in New England, said the work can be labor intensive, but is good exercise.
“You don’t need a gym pass,” she said.
The path is closed during the hours the trails crew is working on it.
The work on Seaside Path is part of an effort to rehabilitate village connectors for Acadia National Park hiking and bring back the custom of walking, and in some cases, biking, into Acadia National Park, into town, and in neighborhoods, according to the Friends of Acadia web site.
Village connector trails such as the Schooner Head Path, located off the Compass Harbor Trail in Bar Harbor, and the Great Meadow Loop, reached from Cromwell Harbor Road in Bar Harbor, can reduce the use of cars and provide other ways to access the park.
Seaside Path is still used by local residents, but was removed from the park’s formal trail system in the 1950s, according to Friends of Acadia. The path has been designed and maintained by the Seal Harbor Village Improvement Society and management plans call for the path to be relocated in some places, according to the Friends of Acadia.
A lot of people are pleased by the effort.
“We’re very happy about it and glad they are doing it and allowing them access to do it,” said Chris Stevenson, director of finance and land conservation for the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, which includes a very small section of the path within its boundaries.
“We are all for it,” he said.
Photos of Seaside Path in current condition, under construction
A walk through time along Seal Harbor’s Seaside Path