Category Archives: News

News about Acadia National Park.

Ties that bind Acadia, new Maine Woods national monument

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.

maine woods national monument

You’re more likely to see moose in the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, than you are in Acadia. (Photo by Mark Picard all rights reserved)

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.

George B. Dorr is father of Acadia National Park

George B. Dorr, pictured along the shores of Jordan Pond in 1926, far right, fought to protect the lands that would become Acadia. A critical tool in that effort was the Theodore Roosevelt-signed Antiquities Act, saving it first as a national monument. (NPS photo)

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. Continue reading

First-ever virtual runs of MDI Marathon to mark Acadia 100th

For the first time ever, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Acadia National Park, runners and walkers anywhere in the world can join virtual runs of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon, and earn a special Acadia Centennial Medallion.

acadia national park virtual runs

The first-ever virtual runs of the Mount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon is an official Acadia Centennial event. At least 5% of gross proceeds from virtual runs’ registration fees go to help support the park. Find more details and register here.

The MDI Marathon and Half Marathon – Acadia100 Virtual Edition is a special collaboration between three Acadia Centennial Partners, Acadia on My MindMount Desert Island Marathon and Half Marathon and Crow Athletics, host of the real-live races. An official Acadia Centennial event, the virtual runs will help raise funds to support the park, with at least 5% of gross proceeds going to benefit Acadia.

“The MDI Marathon and Half couldn’t be more thrilled to work with Acadia on My Mind to offer this cutting-edge virtual edition of our event,” said Gary Allen, race founder and director. “Our partnership is an innovative way for our organizations to join forces to offer anyone, anywhere in the world, a chance to be part of the historic Centennial of Acadia National Park and participate in our award-winning event.”

The real-life MDI Marathon and Half Marathon are being held on Oct. 16, while the virtual runs give participants 10 days to log their miles, from Oct. 7 through end of day Oct. 16. Registration for the real-life MDI Marathon closes Sept. 1, while the real-life MDI Half Marathon is already full. Registration for the virtual MDI Marathon and Half Marathon is open now until the end of the day on Oct. 3.

Virtual runs are a growing fitness trend, offering runners and walkers the ability to be part of a real-life race anywhere in the world, and the chance to raise funds for charity and earn a finisher’s medal. We teamed up with racery.com to power the MDI Marathon and Half Marathon – Acadia100 Virtual Edition, after having worked with them on the year-long virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek, which also helps raise funds for Acadia.

virtual runs

The racery.com virtual map of the MDI Marathon route. You have 10 days to log your 26.2 miles, whether it’s half a mile here and another couple of miles there, or all 26.2 miles all in one go on the day of the actual MDI Marathon on Oct. 16. Each day’s mileage entry moves your race avatar along the map (Bubble Rock on the map represents @AOMM, or Acadia on My Mind, at the virtual starting line in Bar Harbor). You may see a Google Street View(C) photo of where you ended that day, if available. Registration for the virtual MDI Marathon and Half Marathon is open now, and closes at the end of the day on Oct. 3. Virtual runs go live on Oct. 7. (Image courtesy of racery.com)

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New Acadia National Park hiking group open to all

AT LOW TIDE ON THE SAND BAR TO BAR ISLAND – If not for their shared passion for Acadia National Park hiking trails, these very different people might never have met: A teacher, a ranger, a park volunteer, a personal trainer and a blogger.

acadia national park hiking

James Linnane, Shelley Dawson, Maureen Fournier, Acadia on My Mind and Kristy Sharp on the sand bar to Bar Island, where the new Acadia National Park Hiking group on Facebook was announced. (Photo courtesy of Kristy Sharp)

Here they were, hiking together as a group for the first time, on the sand bar to Bar Island, after an early breakfast at Jordan’s Restaurant in Bar Harbor.

Among nearly 300 people from around the world who’ve signed up for a free year-long 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek – where participants can log their hiking, biking or running miles wherever they are, and see their progress online on a map of Acadia – these 5 Acadia fans celebrated the park’s 100th anniversary in a special way on this low-tide hike last month.

To mark the occasion, the Acadia on My Mind blog, sponsor of the Trek as an official Acadia Centennial Partner, announced the creation of a new Acadia National Park Hiking group on Facebook, just as the 5 hikers neared the shore of Bar Island.

“What a good idea,” said James Linnane, volunteer crew leader for the Friends of Acadia, adding that he’s sometimes looking for someone to hike with on the spur of the moment, and that such a Facebook group could come in handy. Shelley Dawson (the teacher), Maureen Fournier (the ranger), and Kristy Sharp (the certified personal trainer) agreed.

acadia national park hiking

This photo of the Acadia Centennial Trek Medal, taken on the top of Cadillac, highlights the new Acadia National Park Hiking group page on Facebook. The medal can be purchased to help raise funds for Acadia, to mark any achievement, whether related to trekking Acadia or not.

Modeled on a couple of popular Facebook hiking groups for people hiking the 4000 footers of New Hampshire, with more than 9,000 members each, the Acadia National Park Hiking group is open to all. People can share trail conditions, hike suggestions, photos, videos and other information, whether they are veteran Acadia fans, or new to the park.

It can also be a central place for participants in the virtual 100-mile Acadia Centennial Trek to post their accomplishments, a photo of their optional finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park, or to create an Acadia Centennial Trek meet-up for those who might want to hike some real Acadia trails together. Continue reading

The peregrine falcon has “great” year in Acadia, 11 chicks fly

UPDATE 7/29/2016: Park today announces reopening of Precipice, Jordan Cliffs and parts of Valley Cove Trails, and closure of 1-mile section of Valley Cove Trail between Flying Mountain and Man o’ War Brook because of deteriorating trail conditions.

A biologist at Acadia National Park said several popular hiking trails at Acadia National Park should open by early next week, following “a great” year for the peregrine falcon at the park.

Peregrine falcon chick

A peregrine falcon chick is held for banding in the spring (Photo by Keith Wozniak/Acadia National Park)

Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia, said 11 peregrine falcon chicks fledged, or took their first flight, at the park’s three main nesting sites this year. That’s up from 7 for each of the prior two years at those sites.

He said the peregrine falcon nests at the Precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain and Jordan Cliffs each produced four fledged falcons and the nest at Valley Cove, three.

“It is great,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “We usually have good success at one site, sometimes two. It is a rare to have that kind of success at three sites.”

He said there was also a chick of the peregrine falcon at Ironbound Island this year with a photo taken by the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. The park holds a conservation easement on Ironbound, a privately owned island in Frenchman Bay.

Sign for closing Orange & Black Path for the peregrine falcon

This trail closure sign on the Orange & Black Path, shown in early July, will soon be coming down.

The Precipice Trail, the Jordan Cliffs Trail, part of the Orange & Black Path and the Valley Cove Trail, which were closed early this spring to protect the falcon chicks, should all open maybe this weekend or by early next week, he said. The trails usually do open in early August every year.

The park has not officially announced the date for reopening the trails and trail crews still need to approve some trail sections for safety reasons for hikers, he said. The park announced the trail closures in March. Continue reading

President Obama “not done yet” with land conservation

In a speech at Yosemite National Park, President Barack Obama may have given some new hope to supporters of a new national monument in Northern Maine, saying he is “not done yet” in protecting public lands.

president obama

President Obama and family visit Yosemite on Father’s Day. (White House photo)

President Obama did not specifically mention the proposed 87,500-acre monument in Northern Maine in his remarks on Saturday, but he emphasized his record of creating monuments and taking other conservation actions, and suggested there’s more to come. He mentioned President Abraham Lincoln’s creation of Yosemite park and President Theodore Roosevelt’s famed visit to Yosemite with John Muir.

“Since I took office, I have been proud to build on the work of all those giants who came before me to support our national resources and to help all Americans get out in the great outdoors. We protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – that is more than any administration in history.

“We have designed new monuments and historic sites that better reflect the story of all our people. Along with those famous sites like Gettysburg we can also see monuments to Cesar Chavez or Pullman porters in Chicago.”

“We have more work to do to to preserve our lands and our culture and our history. We are not done yet.”

Continue reading

Endangered falcons take the stage at Acadia National Park

Endangered falcons gave birth to 11 chicks this year at Acadia National Park and now are putting on a show for hundreds of visitors to the park.

endangered falcons

Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang shows visitors the location of the endangered falcons and their nest during peregrine watch in Acadia National Park.

On Saturday alone, about 160 people stopped to catch the action of  the state-listed endangered falcons  at a “peregrine watch” site in the Precipice Trail parking area below a nest high on the east face of Champlain Mountain.

“We got a bird up,” said Park Ranger Andrew Wolfgang, pointing to the cliffs when one of the endangered falcons flew back to the nest after a brief absence. “It’s a really nice look at an adult in this scope right now.”

Wolfgang and Samuel Ruano, a peregrine falcon interpretive guide and raptor intern, supervised the use of two spotting scopes that allow visitors some excellent views of the peregrine falcons. Wolfgang and Ruano also spoke frequently to visitors about the history of the peregrines in the park and the need to temporarily close popular hiking trails to give the nestlings time to mature.

With the scopes, visitors could clearly see a peregrine falcon perched upright on the cliff face outside the nest or even the nestlings themselves.

“Amazing,” said Keith Spencer, a grade 7 English teacher in the public schools of Everett, MA, after he looked through the scope and saw a falcon. Continue reading

Q&A with Lucas St. Clair on Maine Woods monument

Lucas St. Clair is the president of Elliotsville Plantation, a private nonprofit organization that owns 87,500 acres in Northern Maine just east of Baxter State Park. Elliotsville is seeking to donate the land to the federal government for creation of a Maine Woods National Monument. St. Clair is the son of Roxanne Quimby, the wealthy philanthropist who purchased the land and created Elliotsville Plantation. St. Clair discussed with Acadia on My Mind the bid for a national monument, how Acadia National Park inspired the proposal, as well as the foundation’s plans to donate more than 60 acres on Mount Desert Island to Acadia this year. St. Clair is among those invited to speak during  a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources hearing at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1, at the East Millinocket Town Office, according to a memo by the committee. The committee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican. [Livestream hearing]

What makes the land special that it qualifies for national monument status?

maine woods

Lucas St. Clair, president of Elliotsville Plantation, was born in Dover-Foxcroft and grew up in a hand-built log cabin. (Photo courtesy of Lucas St. Clair)

Lucas St. Clair: There’s many, many things. The ecosystem has lots of flora and fauna that only live in this part of Maine. It is a unique part of the national landscape. It is a Northern Hardwood Forest and is not well represented in the National Park System. This landscape influenced the birth of America’s conservation movement through Henry David Thoreau and Theodore Roosevelt. The understanding of plate tectonics from a geologic standpoint was proven on this landscape by a USGS geologist in the 1950s. It has three incredible watersheds – the east branch of the Penobscot River, Seboeis Stream and the Wassataquoik Stream. And incredible views of Mount Katahdin. It acts as a climate refuge and it is also a very important piece of landscape for the Wabanaki people.

What are the main reasons you want to create a national monument?

St. Clair: To protect a resource that offers all of the things I just described and beyond that, to bring economic benefits to the Katahdin region, a region that needs economic revitalization and a diversified economy. National parks have been proven to do that all across the country.

Are we at a crucial time in the process with President Obama leaving office at the end of the year?

St. Clair: It’s the centennial of the National Park Service and these communities are not getting any better. From an economic standpoint, we are at a very crucial time. We are at a crucial time to revitalize the economy of the Katahdin region. Continue reading

5 lessons from Acadia for Katahdin-area monument

When National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis came to Maine this month to gauge local opposition and support for a proposed Katahdin-area national monument, he got an earful.

Millinocket Marathon & Half

Gary Allen, founder of Mount Desert Island Marathon, used this photo of Katahdin, as seen from Millinocket, on Facebook, to try to help the local economy with a Millinocket Marathon & Half in December. Outdoor recreation can bring much needed jobs and dollars. (Image courtesy of Gary Allen)

He has only to look to Acadia National Park for these 5 lessons for a Maine Woods national monument, proposed by Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby and family. They want to donate nearly 88,000 acres east of Baxter State Park, and contribute and raise a $40 million endowment.

Over the years, we’ve hiked and backpacked all through Maine, along the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in the state, and in Baxter State Park. We’ve climbed all the mountains that are 4000 feet and higher in the state, as well as the 26 coastal peaks of Acadia on Mount Desert Island. In our travels, we’ve seen how Millinocket and other paper mill towns have struggled economically. And we’ve seen the hustle and bustle of Bar Harbor and other towns that have diversified their economy to include tourism and outdoor recreation.

While the Katahdin and Acadia areas seem worlds apart, these 5 lessons apply to both. Continue reading

Acadia boosts economy with $248M in 2015 visitor spending

Bolstering the case for national parks as an economic engine, a new report shows Acadia’s 2.8 million visitors last year pumped $247.9 million into the regional economy, while across the country, a record-setting 307.2 million visitors to all national parks spent $16.9 billion.

The report is sure to be brought up by supporters of a proposed national monument in the Katahdin region, which has been hit hard by paper mill closures, even as some area residents and officials vehemently oppose the idea, with Patten the most recent to reject it, by a 121-53 vote on April 19.

acadia boosts economy

Acadia National Park’s 2.8 million visitors spent $247.9 million in 2015, according to a new National Park Service report. (NPS graphic)

The parks’ economic impact is the most measured since the National Park Service refined its visitor spending analysis model in 2012. How Acadia boosts economy and other parks around the country affect whole regions is expected to be even greater this year, with more visitors anticipated during the Centennial year for both Acadia and the National Park Service.

“The big picture of national parks and their importance to the economy is clear,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, in releasing the report late yesterday, during National Park Week. “Each tax dollar invested in the National Park Service effectively returns $10 to the US economy because of visitor spending that works through local, state and the US economy.”

While the park service hasn’t publicly taken a position on Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby’s proposal to donate what’s now known as Katahdin Woods & Waters Recreation Area for a national monument or national park, the report will certainly add to the broiling controversy. Continue reading

Join virtual Acadia Centennial Trek to celebrate, help park

UPDATE 5/20/2016: Acadia Centennial Trek Medal now available for purchase, to help raise funds for the park

UPDATE 2/29/2016: New Acadia Centennial Trek page to serve as online guide to virtual 100-mile route, including mileage marker links to Google Maps views, other resources

Have you ever daydreamed about hiking all of Acadia’s 26 peaks, or walking the Park Loop Road or carriage roads, but you’re short on time or out of shape? Or maybe you’re in training for the Mount Desert Island Marathon or Acadia Half Marathon, and imagining the race route?

acadia centennial

Be part of history by joining the first-ever 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, and have the option of buying a finisher’s medal to help raise funds for the park.

Well, your dreams can now become a virtual reality, during Acadia’s 100th anniversary year.

Join the inaugural 100-mile virtual Acadia Centennial Trek, which starts at the top of Cadillac; goes over the 26 peaks of Acadia on MDI, along sections of the Park Loop Road, carriage roads and MDI YMCA’s routes for the Acadia and Fall Half Marathons; and ends at the finish line of the MDI Marathon.

It’s a free race hosted by us, as part of our Acadia Centennial Partner commitment, to inspire people to think about our favorite national park throughout this 100th year, whether or not they’ve ever set foot in Acadia. It’s a chance to motivate us all to become more fit, think of the broader meaning of community, and ponder what Acadia does for us, and what we can do for Acadia.

Plus there’s the option to buy a finisher’s medal with the official Centennial logo, to help raise funds for the park. You can run for bling while running for Acadia!

Acadia Centennial

Optional finisher’s medal will feature Centennial logo

Sign-up for the race begins today, Feb. 26 (one of Acadia’s “three birthdays,” marking the date that Sieur de Monts National Monument became Lafayette National Park, 1919). And once at least 50 people have signed up, the race begins. You can run, hike, walk or step-count anywhere in the world, and you have through the end of the year to complete the route and log your miles.

If you prefer to bike, or you’re a wheelchair racer, all are welcome! Since biking 100 miles goes a lot faster than walking, hiking or running, pick your own handicap, whether 10 miles biking equates to 1 mile on the virtual route, or some other ratio you think is fair.

And if you’re already as fit as Gary Allen, the founder and director of the MDI Marathon, or an ultramarathoner in training, perhaps it should also be 10 miles to 1 – or maybe 26.2 miles to 1.

As virtual race director, we get to make the rules – but you get to bend them!

acadia centennial trek

The virtual Acadia Centennial Trek begins at the top of Cadillac, goes over sections of the Park Loop Road and carriage roads, and along parts of the routes of MDI YMCA’s Acadia and Fall Half Marathons, and ends at the finish line for the MDI Marathon, at exactly 100 miles.

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Message in the rocks: Acadia’s Bates cairns get new focus

One in a series on Acadia’s Bates cairns

Long the target of vandals and errant hikers, the historic cairns of Acadia National Park are the focus of new efforts to recognize and preserve them.

A Bates-style cairn, located off the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

A Bates cairn, located on the Champlain North Ridge Trail, overlooks tiny Egg Rock and the Schoodic Peninsula.

Moira O’Neill of Surry and Ranger Judy Hazen Connery have worked together to design an “Anatomy of a Bates Cairn” T-shirt. O’Neill, a registered nurse and a volunteer who helps maintain the cairns, sells the T-shirts on Etsy  to help raise money for trail maintenance.

“If we educate people about the meaning or purpose of the Bates cairn … their attitude then will be to respect them and their purpose,” O’Neill said.

bates cairn

Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, center, explains the importance of protecting the Bates cairn at a recent community dinner at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, as part of his project to become an Eagle Scout. Accompanying him are fellow Boy Scouts Liam Higgins, his brother, and Jack Beckerley. (Photo courtesy of Bar Harbor Troop 89)

As part of his project to become an Eagle Scout, Isaac “Breaux” Higgins, a senior at Mount Desert Island High School, is raising awareness by collecting signatures on a pledge to respect the cairns.

Higgins and other scouts are also selling the T-shirts for O’Neill’s fundraising for trail work.

The Bates-style cairns are special in the National Park Service and a key part of the history of the trails on Mount Desert Island. They are named for Waldron Bates, chair of the Bar Harbor Village Improvement Association Path Committee from 1900-1909, who first designed them. Continue reading

Year of celebrating joyously with Acadia Centennial events

Acadia National Park’s 100th year has barely dawned, and already, more than 70 Acadia Centennial events are filling up the official calendar, featuring something for every month, and involving some of the more than 250 Centennial partners.

Centennial logo for Acadia National Park

The official Acadia Centennial logo

This week, a couple of Acadia Senior College courses begin: On Tuesday, Jan. 12, an 8-week series on the history of Acadia National Park, by Acadia Centennial Task Force co-chair Jack Russell; and on Wednesday, Jan. 13, a 6-week session on the geology of Mount Desert Island, by geologist Duane Braun.

Rounding out the Acadia Centennial events this month: A Jan. 23 Ellsworth Public Library presentation on Schoodic Point, by author Allen Workman; a Jan. 25 bean supper and Centennial kick-off event by the Mount Desert Island Historical Society; and a 1-week winter-in-Acadia photography retreat beginning Jan. 31, by photographer Colleen Miniuk-Sperry.

Among the other Acadia Centennial event highlights throughout the year, with some sure to fit into your plans and appeal to your interests:

Continue reading

Year in review: Top 5 Acadia stories, top 5 blog posts in 2015

UPDATE 2/14/2016: Revised 2015 park statistics show 2.8 million visitors to Acadia, most since 1995. Change primarily a result of more accurate count of Schoodic visitors. Link to final numbers here.

UPDATED 1/6/16: December visitors to Acadia total 13,880, pushing total in 2015 to 2.756 million, up 7.5% from 2014, most since 2.760 million in 1997. See updated story and link below to NPS statistics.

Here are the top 5 Acadia news stories for 2015, in Acadia on My Mind’s opinion:

Schoodic woods

Campers, hikers and bicyclists can find out more information about Schoodic Woods at this new visitor center.

  • Schoodic Woods opens – In the biggest addition to Acadia National Park in years, Schoodic Woods opened in September, with 94 RV and tent sites in the campground, and 8.3 miles of bike paths and 4.7 miles of hiking trails across more than 1,400 acres. The land had originally been proposed for a resort with hotel, golf course, sports center and luxury villas, but a change in ownership in 2011 led to a conservation easement and the development of Schoodic Woods, next to the existing Schoodic section of Acadia. The plan is to ultimately have the park-run Schoodic Woods become park property. The campground is open seasonally, but the trails are open year-round.

    Kevin Schneider was named the new superintendent of Acadia National Park.

    Kevin Schneider, deputy superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, is scheduled to start work as the new superintendent of Acadia National Park in January. Schneider replaces Sheridan Steele who retired in late October. (NPS Photo)

  • Record-breaking October, most visitors since 1997 – Acadia had more than 2.74 million visitors through November, up 7.6% over the same time last year. It’s the first time since 1997 that visitation broke 2.7 million. October saw 335,000 visitors, up 6.7% over that same month a year ago. A combination of warmer than usual weather, increased cruise ship traffic, national publicity from 2014, and a stronger economy may have all contributed to the greater numbers, according to Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist for Acadia National Park. December drew 13,880 people to the park, bringing the total for 2015 to 2.756 million, up 7.5 percent over 2014. The park’s fare-free Island Explorer bus also broke records, with more than 533,000 passengers tallied, up 6 percent from last year.
  • Changing of the guard – Sheridan Steele retires as superintendent after 12 years with Acadia. Among the accomplishments he points to: Development of the Schoodic Education and Research Center at the old Naval base on Schoodic Peninsula, and of Schoodic Woods. The new superintendent, Kevin Schneider, begins on the job in late January.
  • Long-term transportation planning begins – With crowds leading to the shutdown of the Cadillac parking lot at peak times and other traffic issues, the park launched a long-term transportation planning process. Among the ideas being explored: Occasional car-free Saturday mornings, and more frequent Bar Harbor to Winter Harbor ferry service and Island Explorer buses to attract visitors to Schoodic.
  • President Obama’s July 2010 trip to Acadia used to push climate change action – Not once, but twice, the White House included a photo of President Obama and family hiking Cadillac in 2010 as part of calls to action on climate change. This summer, the photo was included in a climate action video. And a few weeks ago, the same photo was used in social media to illustrate President Obama’s comments during the UN Climate Change conference.

    President Barack Obama hikes Acadia National Park

    This July 2010 photo of President Barack Obama and family on top of Cadillac made a couple of appearances in 2015 climate change action media put out by the White House. (White House photo)

Continue reading

Acadia and Baxter ties may provide lessons for proposed park

On the surface, the story of the Acadia and Baxter regions might seem a tale of two communities.

katahdin

Katahdin’s Baxter Peak is the highest point in Maine, at 5,268 feet. George B. Dorr, the “father of Acadia,” hiked Katahdin in 1925, before Baxter State Park came into being.

Baxter, a state park, is deep in Maine’s North Woods and distinguished by nearly mile-high Katahdin. Located more than 150 miles away, Acadia, the only national park in the Northeast, boasts much smaller mountains that hug the Atlantic Ocean.

Millinocket, the gateway to Baxter, faces double-digit unemployment with the closing of paper mills. Bar Harbor and other communities surrounding Acadia attract the well-known and wealthy.

But behind these seemingly different places are some historical and social ties that go back more than 100 years, and common challenges of balancing economic development, tourism and land preservation.

President Barack Obama hikes Acadia National Park

The beauty of Acadia has drawn generations of visitors, most notably President Barack Obama and family, seen here hiking the Cadillac Summit Loop in July 2010. (White House photo)

With the debate over a proposed new national park next to Baxter heating up, there may be lessons to be learned from the ties that bind Acadia and Baxter. Last month, a petition with 13,000 signatures in support of the national park proposal was delivered to Maine’s Congressional delegation. But facing opposition, backers are now trying the easier national monument designation, needing only presidential action.

First, the people connection between Acadia and Baxter. Over the years, area residents, visitors and park employees have made the trip from Mount Desert Island to the Katahdin region, or vice versa, hiking the trails, paddling the waters, supporting the economy, or otherwise giving back:

  • 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.
  • 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.

    Millinocket Marathon & Half

    Gary Allen, founder of Mount Desert Island Marathon, used this photo of Katahdin, as seen from Millinocket, on Facebook, to invite people to run the free inaugural Millinocket Marathon & Half, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. (Image courtesy of Gary Allen)

  • This Saturday, Dec. 12, Gary Allen, founder and director of the Mount Desert Island Marathon, is hosting an impromptu free marathon and half marathon in Millinocket, requesting only that participants spend at least what they would have on race entry fees, at local businesses.

And here are some of the issues that have shaped Acadia and Baxter over the years, and that may still be relevant for today’s debate over Burt’s Bees founder Roxanne Quimby’s proposal, to donate what’s now known as Katahdin Woods & Water Recreation Area, as a new national park or national monument in Maine:  Continue reading

Acadia National Park visitors to top 2.7M, most since 1997

Acadia National Park is set to draw more than 2.7 million visitors for the first time since 1997, after attracting the most-ever number of October visitors, breaking that monthly record for the second year in a row, according to park statistics.

crowds in acadia

Acadia National Park visitors set October record in 2015. Entire year expected to draw more than 2.7 million, most since 1997, possibly making overcrowding along Ocean Path and Park Loop Road, as seen here, more common. (NPS photo)

A total of 335,002 Acadia National Park visitors were counted last month, up 6.7 percent from the record 313,323 during October of last year, said National Park Service visitor use statistics.

Through the first 10 months of this year, park visitation totaled 2,693,840, already more than the 2,563,129 for all of last year.

If the park draws the same amount of visitors it attracted last year in November and December, –  31,013 in November and 13,510 in December – it would total 2,738,363, cracking 2.7 million for the first time since 1997, when it drew 2,760,330, according to National Park statistics.

sunrise on cadillac mountain

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain attracted so many people during the summer of 2015, the summit road had to be closed twice before the crack of dawn. (NPS photo)

The summer months showed strong visitation for the park. September totaled, 462,742, up 10.7 percent from September of 2014; August, 658,253, up 3.1 percent; July, 592,137, up 5.5 percent and June, 354,035, up 4.5 percent.

In an email,  Charlie Jacobi, natural resource specialist for the park, who works with visitation statistics, said he was  “pretty sure we will top 2.7m now,” when asked about visitor totals for this year.

“I can’t attribute this to any one thing,” he said.

He did say “it’s all you mentioned,” when asked if the strong economy, nice weather, good national publicity from 2014 and cruise ship visitors were factors.

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