Celebrating Acadia National Park’s Centennial has given us the chance to reflect on how this incredible treasure contributes to the health and vitality of our state. The centennial also gives us the chance to celebrate the efforts by land conservationists and our congressional delegation to make Acadia whole.
A century ago, Acadia National Park was formed from a cluster of donated lands. Though it represented a bold and generous vision, there were many gaps. Over the years, the park’s founders and those who followed sought to fill those gaps to create a better experience for park visitors.
While the vast majority of land within the congressionally-designated park boundary is public, many privately-owned properties — “in-holdings” — still exist. For more than two decades, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Friends of Acadia, Elliotsville Plantation Inc. and other partners have worked with landowners to conserve more than 25 of these in-holdings and transfer them to the park to fill critical gaps in one of the nation’s crown jewels. The most recent of these conservation successes happened just this month at Seal Cove Pond.
Seal Cove Pond is a pristine 283-acre waterbody frequented by anglers, birdwatchers and canoeists. Located in the town of Tremont on the “quiet side” of Mount Desert Island, it provides stunning views of Western Mountain, and it is a peaceful place to experience one of the nation’s most visited national parks. Thanks to the work of Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Friends of Acadia and the National Park Foundation, Seal Cove Pond is home to Acadia’s newest property: 62 mostly forested acres and more than 4,000 feet of picturesque shoreline on Sawyer’s Point.
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Additions to the park such as Sawyer’s Point have protected critical habitat for loons, bald eagles, migratory songbirds, moose and other wildlife enjoyed by the millions who visit Acadia each year. Moreover, some of these conserved lands have safeguarded important sources of drinking water for Mount Desert Island residents and visitors.
Many of the conservation projects also have expanded or enhanced public outdoor recreational opportunities. For example, over the past decade, conservation projects in Acadia have preserved popular hiking trails around Lower Hadlock and Long ponds. These foot paths are now permanent features of the park, leading families to quiet vistas and serene picnic spots. Through land protection efforts in and around Northeast Creek, Acadia has acquired numerous parcels bordering this wildlife-rich wetland. One of these projects improved public access for kayakers to explore its calm waters and photographers hoping to capture shots.
Conserving land in Acadia is good for the environment, but it also is no secret that this work benefits the state’s economy and local businesses. In 2015, more than 2.8 million people visited Acadia. These visitors generated more than $245 million in economic activity and supported 3,900 jobs in the communities surrounding Acadia. By adding new land to the park, these investments create opportunities for people to experience the region.
Thankfully, Maine’s congressional delegation understands these benefits, and it has worked hard over the years to secure critical funding though the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was established by Congress in 1965 to safeguard the nation’s natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. The fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasings to strengthen communities, preserve our history and protect our national endowment of lands and waters.
That fund’s original 50-year authorization expired in 2015. But with support from Maine’s elected representatives, last year Congress extended its authorization for three additional years. This year, federal legislators are considering proposals to extend its authorization permanently. We’re grateful that Maine’s delegation in Washington is working to ensure this important land conservation program can continue to protect key properties within Acadia’s boundary.
Maine’s first national park came into being 100 years ago through the efforts of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, a group of remarkably dedicated and visionary citizens. The spirit of collaboration that marked the first Acadia land acquisitions still is evident today thanks to a dedicated group of partners looking forward to the next century of Acadia.
Tim Glidden is president of the Maine Coast Heritage Trust.