Retirement of Acadia National Park leader signals end of era

The Acadia National Park superintendent and more than 100 other people marked the passing of an era at an event to honor the work of longtime Acadia Ranger Charlie Jacobi.

charlie jacobi

Charlie Jacobi holds one of the many gifts he received at his retirement party: A customized arrowhead-shaped plaque that includes his years of service to the National Park Service, and the nickname “Visitor Use Guy.”

Jacobi, who started at Acadia in 1984 and retired at the end of last year, was recognized for his innovative work in analyzing and collecting statistics on the effects of visitors on Acadia’s environment and implementing the first entrance fees at the park. Jacobi also was a leader in a pioneering effort in 2001 to restore special Bates cairns on Acadia trails and took on the Ridge Runner and Leave No Trace(R) programs at Acadia to help maintain trails.

Jacobi leaves federal service as the Trump administration proposes reorganizing the National Park Service, and cutting the NPS budget by 13 percent and about 1,200 full-time jobs, according to National Parks Traveler. Since 2001, national parks have lost the ability to hire more than 1,400 employees as a result of annual appropriations failing to keep up with costs and inflation, according to Congressional testimony last month by The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a nonprofit based in Arizona.

At the Acadia retirement party, Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park and St. Croix Island International Historic Site, told the crowd Jacobi epitomizes the commitment of a ranger and what it means to care for Acadia National Park.

charlie jacobi

One of 2 cakes with a thank-you message for Charlie Jacobi, who retired from Acadia National Park as natural resource specialist.

Schneider, who began working for the NPS in 1996, said he realized that Jacobi was “one of a kind” when he first visited Acadia in 1999. He said Jacobi was a trailblazer in studying how visitors affect the park and has been key to developing a new transportation plan.

“In 1999, there were no other Charlie Jacobis in the National Park Service,” Schneider said.

He presented Jacobi with a customized arrowhead-shaped plaque that noted Jacobi’s years in the park service — April 18, 1982 to Dec. 31, 2017 including two years at Great Smoky Mountains National Park before his start at Acadia.

The arrowhead is the shape of the official emblem of the park service and is extensively used on signs, brochures and web sites.

Accolades – and jokes – for Charlie Jacobi at Acadia retirement party

During the Jan. 19 event at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor, Jacobi, a natural resources specialist, was honored by many other people including David Manski, acting CEO of the Schoodic Institute at Acadia and former chief of natural resources and cultural heritage at Acadia, David MacDonald, president and CEO of the Friends of Acadia and two who started at Acadia the year as Jacobi — Jim Grover, retired supervisory ranger, and Ranger Judy Hazen Connery, who served as master of ceremonies.

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Charlie Jacobi pioneered the use of signs like this one on Norumbega Mountain’s Goat Trail, to remind people not to add to or take away from special Acadia trail markers known as Bates cairns.

Hazen Connery drew a lot of laughs when she presented a clever and funny slide show on different photos of Jacobi over the years including ones of him getting paid to hike or “lay down” on the job.

“People don’t understand how long Charlie has been here,” Hazen Connery deadpanned while displaying an historic photo that included park founder George B. Dorr, digitally modified with Jacobi’s face replacing that of a person flanking Dorr.

MacDonald, who wore a Bates cairn t-shirt, noted that Jacobi has worked closely with the nonprofit Friends of Acadia over the years and that people will miss Jacobi’s insights and observations. MacDonald probably spoke for a lot of people when he said that he often keeps Jacobi in mind while hiking in Acadia.

“What would Charlie do?” MacDonald said. “That is what I am thinking out there.”

Jacobi has been recognized locally and nationally for his stewardship, and for making people think about their impact while hiking on Acadia’s trails. He’s credited by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, based in Colorado, for being a prime reason for Acadia being selected as a Leave No Trace Gold Standard Site. The Waterman Fund, a conservation organization based in New Hampshire, awarded him the Guy Waterman Alpine Steward Award in 2010. The George Wright Society, a Michigan-based nonprofit that focuses on public lands stewardship, presented him with its communication award in 2013. And Acadia presented him with the George B. Dorr Award last year, for “exceptional dedication to the park’s mission.”

Acadia retirement comes at time of record attendance, proposed cut

The Acadia retirement party for Jacobi followed a record year of attendance at the park. According to the National Park Service, Acadia drew 3.509 million recreational visitors last year, up 6.2 percent from the 2016 centennial total of 3.303 million.

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Charlie Jacobi worked closely with the Acadia trail crew, seen here upgrading the Sargent South Ridge Trail.

Jacobi, 64, told the crowd that his years at the park were “unbelievably rewarding” and a heck of a lot of fun.

“I can’t believe 34 years has passed but it has,” he said. “I can’t believe I retired but I guess I did.”

He recalled that he collected the first weekly fee to enter the park from a Pennsylvania couple in 1987 and that it cost $5, a program that has since become a vital financial resource for the park. Although 80% of visitor fees stay in Acadia, the park continues to face a backlog of $71 million in deferred maintenance as a result of lagging federal appropriations. The current weekly fee for passenger vehicles during the season is $25, although the Trump administration has proposed raising it to $70 in Acadia and 16 other popular parks, to help cover some of the parks’ deferred maintenance.

Jacobi thanked people for their help and support over the years.

“I got to stick my nose into a lot of people’s business in the park. I thank you for your tolerance.”

In an interview, Jacobi said “the common thread” of everyone at the event is a love of Acadia. “It’s been an awesome time for me,” he said.

Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist for Acadia National Park.

Charlie Jacobi was always available to lend a helping hand as natural resource specialist for Acadia National Park, even if it meant hoisting a bag of rocks over his shoulder on the peak of Sargent Mountain, to help build a new protective causeway on the mountain top.

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