Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park is located in the United States, in the state of Maine. It holds most of Mount Desert Island and the islands associated with it along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Created in 1919, this park is the oldest National Park that occurs east of the Mississippi River and was known as Lafayette National Park until 1929. The land encompassed by the park was originally inhabited by the Wabanaki people. When Samuel de Champlain saw the area in 1604, he described it as holding seven to eight mountain peaks with bare-rock summits, and sloping forests of birch, pine, and fir trees. The landscape has not experienced significant change since this description.

It is thought that the original idea for Acadia National Park belongs to Charles Eliot, a landscaping architect. It was not until land donations and public support were given by Charles W. and his son George B. Dorr, also known as the father of Acadia, that the actual park creation could be conducted. In 1916, Woodrow Wilson gave the park federal status by naming it Sieur de Monts National Monument, and in 1919, it attained National park status as Lafayette National Park.

Between 1915 and 1933, the majority of the monetary support to Acadia National Park was given by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who also helped direct and construct trails through park.  Beatrix Farrand, sponsored by Rockefeller, planned the building of the trails. These trails are comprised of seven granite bridges, two gate lodges, and over fifty miles of granite stones that mark the trails. These stones, known as coping stones or Rockefeller’s teeth, are used as guard rails to protect automobiles along the steep cliffs.

Acadia National Park contains lakes, an ocean shoreline, mountains, woodlands, and islands. These islands include Isle au Haut, Mount Desert Island, and areas of Baker Island. The park encompasses over 47,000 acres of land, including islands and the mainland. The park also contains the eastern side of Cadillac Mountain. Although an act was passed by Congress in 1986 marking the boundaries of the park, officials are still attempting to acquire the in-holdings, or privately owned plots of land, that appear at these boundaries.

Acadia National Park holds forty species of animals, both aquatic and land dwelling. These include white-tailed deer, moose, squirrels, beavers, muskrats, porcupines, bobcats, coyotes, black bears, and foxes. Excavations of Native American sites located in the Mount Desert Island area of the park have unearthed the bones of many species including deer, elk, wolves, lynx, Indian dogs, sea minks, and gray seals. Gray wolves and mountain lions once inhabited the island, but these large predators left due a decrease in small prey and an increase of human traffic.

In October of 1947, Acadia National Park suffered a loss of 10,000 acres in a fire that started in an area west of Hulls Cove known as Crooked Road. This fire persisted until November of 1947 and was one of many that destroyed large portions of Maine’s forest. Local residents, the Army, the National Guard, the Coast Guard, and park officials worked together to stop the fires. Restoration of the park was funded primarily by members of the Rockefeller family, although much of the regrowth of the trees occurred naturally. Some consider the fires to have been beneficial to the park, as new species like maple, birch, aspen, and alder trees developed on Mount Desert Island and in other areas.

Friends of Acadia, established in 1986, is a group organization of residents in the area of Acadia National Park.  It is a member-based nonprofit organization that focuses on recruiting and training volunteers to benefit that park. The group attained a 3.4 million dollar donation, which was given to maintain the carriage trails within the park.  This gift was the first major achievement for Friends of Acadia, but it also helped them gain federal funds to restore and update the trails. Because of the success of the group’s work on the trails, the park became the first of its kind to have a permanent fund for road upkeep. Through Friends of Arcadia, a busing system known as the Island Explorer was created that uses free, propane-fueled buses to transfer visitors through the park. The Acadia Youth Technology Team is a group of local teens that work to educate and gather young volunteers to continue the legacy and work of Friends of Acadia.

Another achievement for Acadia National Park occurred in 2002, when the National Park Service attained the unused naval base located in the Schoodic Peninsula area of the park. It was converted into the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC), one of twenty research and education centers in United States National Parks. The SERC conducts research educates students, and provides resources for teachers interested in nature and park preservation.

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Image Caption: Coastline at Acadia National Park. Credit: Sixlocal/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)