After being worn down from years of use, the famed tea lawn at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park is undergoing a $356,000 rehabilitation, blocking people from sitting or walking on the lawn, and others from dining outside with their dog, until the middle of July.
A contractor is replacing the sprawling lawn, installing an underground irrigation system and building a new brick plaza complete with a number of patio furniture sets for people to sit on, among other work financed by funds related to the concessionaire franchise fee.
While people can still enjoy a popover and meal inside the park’s only restaurant or catch the iconic view of the Bubbles from a big observation deck or by the shores of Jordan Pond, the temporary lawn closure is unexpected and disappointing for some, including dog owners used to eating outside with their pets.
“We were actually planning on coming to sit on the lawn to read,” said Erika Swiger, 26, a social worker from Burlington, Vt., as she and her boyfriend Harvey Vincent, 28, a University of Vermont graduate student, looked across the construction zone from the Acadia restaurant’s observation deck on a sunny afternoon in late May. “It definitely takes away from the beauty of the place.”
A longtime visitor to Acadia, Swiger likes to have popovers with jam on the Acadia tea lawn, a Jordan Pond House tradition; it was “definitely disappointing” not to be able to do so, she said. She saw no sign alerting visitors to the construction, and thought that perhaps the restaurant was expanding.
Kathy Weinstock, a 1981 graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, lay on a rough grassy area outside the construction zone while waiting for her son to return from a run. She told her son she would read a book and wait for him on the lawn but then to her surprise the lawn was gone. “I said, ‘Where’s the lawn?’ “
Visitors miss having popovers on Jordan Pond House lawn with dogs
Standing near his vehicle in the north parking lot for Jordan Pond Michael Harmon of Trenton, Fla., said he definitely would have had lunch on the lawn with his wife and two 13-year-old Jack Russell terriers, Lockheed and Piper.
“I would have taken my dogs,” said Harmon, who briefly left the dogs in his vehicle while having a popover and lunch inside the restaurant. “That’s what we were hoping to do.”
According to Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia National Park, the tea lawn is scheduled to open to people on July 15 and the brick patios adjacent to the lawn are set to open on June 20. Work on the project began in mid-October of last year.
While the lawn is scheduled to be finished on June 20, it won’t available to people and diners until July 15 because of time needed to protect the new sod and allow for watering, she said. No one should walk on the new lawn for two to three weeks, but there is plenty of hiking nearby.
“We are hopeful and optimistic it will be open on July 15, but that is the best we can tell with the information we have right now,” she said.
The work was needed because the old lawn was pitching toward the building, she said. When it rained, water was coming off the lawn and going into the building, causing issues with the building, she said.
The lawn was also worn and compacted in certain frequently used locations, including spots for tables and areas where servers walked back and forth to the tables, she added. A lot of grass was failing to grow back after the season, she said.
The lawn “was not looking very much like a tea lawn,” Anastasia said.
The Jordan Pond House, given to the park by John D. Rockefeller Jr., has been “a dining destination since the early nineteenth century,” according to the National Park Service.
The project will prevent water from entering the building and will also make the lawn more durable, according to Anastasia. In order to allow the grass to recover, the restaurant also is planning to rotate the tables a little bit more, instead of leaving them in one spot, she said.
The new underground irrigation system should also help. Also, the sod and loam should make the lawn a little softer and allow better penetration of water, she added.
“Hopefully it is going to be beautiful and it will look more like a tea lawn than it has recently,” she said.
Jordan Pond House web site says no dogs allowed until after July 15
People visiting with their pets are particularly looking forward to a rehabilitated tea lawn.
Mike Bosko of Tampa, Fla., bought some food to go from the Jordan Pond House and ate on the observation deck with his family’s two Boston terriers, Caesar and Romeo.
Bosko, who was visiting the park with his wife, Leslie, and their two sons, Jordan and Jason, said he would have liked to have eaten on the lawn with the dogs.
“It would have been a nice place to hang out with the dogs and enjoy lunch with the family,” he said.
Ed Noonan, general manager of the Jordan Pond House, said the restaurant posted a notice on its web site saying that it will be unable to accommodate people who want to dine with their dog until after July 15.
“People love their dogs,” Noonan said. “We’re glad to host them.”
The restaurant received a lot of calls in early May from people seeking reservations to eat outside, he said. Typically, people like to bring their dogs and eat outside, he said.
The brick patio should provide space for 30 to 40 tables and chairs, allowing serving of people at the end of June. Noonan said he has not decided yet whether dogs can be on the patio after it opens and won’t have a real answer to that question until early July.
Restaurant codes only allow service dogs inside the restaurant building, he said.