I am proud to be a member and volunteer of FOA. The pristine condition of the trails and carriage roads make our hiking most pleasurable. I also strongly support the role of the Island Explorer bus and advocate its use to everyone I meet in the park. I have never volunteered for an organization that showed such appreciation for my efforts. Thank you FOA for all you do!
Friends of Acadia (FOA) is an outstanding organization devoted to Acadia National Park (ANP), in particular, and the great outdoors, more globally. For the past eight years, I've been volunteering for FOA as a crew leader and office worker and have never felt so appreciated. It's not the hats or t-shirts or even special luncheons they treat us to that do it for me, but rather the sincere gratitude the whole FOA staff expresses every time anyone volunteers their time and energy. The volunteers are held in high esteem and our value as contributors to the Park's welfare and the greater good is never taken for granted.
The staff at FOA are hard working and dedicated. No gala is too big or trail installation too daunting for FOA to take it on and manage it with style and grace. The people there embody espirit de corps and continually seek new ways to connect with people and organizations to promote ANP in all its glory.
I am honored and grateful to be a part of FOA and am always proud at what they do. You would be too!
I support Friends of Acadia because the organization and its volunteers work to preserve what is important to me-a way of life that includes the natural beauty of Acadia National Park. The programs of FOA, including the island wide bus system, The Wild Gardens of Acadia, and the many activities designed to encourage young people to develop an understanding of the importance of preserving our natural heritage, all seem to further a way of life available few other places in the US.
I am grateful and recognize that this work has not been accomplished without the vision, knowledge, and hard work of those associated with the organization. I am always interested to notice that the staff and the board lead by example and are always on hand to help implement events and programming.
Friends of Acadia makes a great park greater. Acadia National Park is a relatively small park, but it is close to densely populated areas. Friends of Acadia plays an essential role in engaging visitors in easily overlooked aspects of Acadia National Park, making the park experience much richer, all the while helping to protect Acadia in a myriad of ways. They amplify the Park's voice, make the trails and transit system a joy to use, and help provide wide and clear vision for Acadia's future.
Many years (decades) ago, my wife and I started spending vacations in Acadia. These were precious one or two week escapes from the workaday world and life in suburbia. I always loved outdoor activities of every kind but gradually come to emphasize hiking/walking because of their simplicity and high ratio of reward to cost (time, money, other). We vacationed in many places, but i liked Acadia best because it is a hiker's paradise. Although i volunteered to work on organizing hikes and doing trail work in my own neighborhood, i never once volunteered in Acadia during all those vacations. On one occasion, while bicycling on the carriage roads, i passed a group of volunteers lined up along a roadside ditch on their knees digging out growth which blocked drainage. Negatively, i thought, "Why waste your time in such a beautiful location on your knees grubbing weeds out of a ditch?"
Later, i left my full time job to work as a consultant and we went to live on Mount Desert Island so that i could spend my spare time hiking and biking amidst Acadia's beauty. With time to spend, i appreciated Acadia's network of trails and carriage roads even more. Because of my hiking and trail work experience in other places, I knew that Acadia's vast network of trails and carriage roads required a lot of labor.
I also wanted to connect with my community and its many, many visitors. I took a job at a popular restaurant with the duty of, amongst other things, informing visitors about the history and recreational opportunities in Acadia. To be effective in my job i hiked even more and did a lot of reading about Acadia. A person with whom i worked in a small booth told me about her volunteer work with Friends of Acadia. In that small booth we shared there were many leaflets and fliers to give visitors information about Acadia. One of those described the opportunity to volunteer with FOA on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings during the warmer months, and i did so from time to time.
Those few mornings volunteering with FOA introduced me to a whole set of people who volunteered regularly. Some of them lived on Mount Desert Island all year and had retired here from somewhere else. Some of them spent the summer here. Some of them volunteered during annual vacations. One way or another all shared an interest in the Acadia region's history and attractions. Many were also avid hikers or cyclists. I like these people and volunteered more and more to enjoy their company and the work we did together, but not as much as I would have liked to because of the time constraint of my summer job.
One day, an FOA employee whose task it was to organize the volunteers, furnish them tools, transportation, and training, and coordinate with the National Park Service to find meaningful tasks that could be accomplished by volunteers, told me that he had decided to quit his job, not because he did not like it, but because an injury was making it difficult for him to carry out the physical part of the job. He told me this when I encountered him leading a group of volunteers working on a trail where i was taking a recreational hike. He and his colleague were impressed with me because I volunteered on rainy days when almost noone else did so. I did that not because i liked working in the rain for no pay, but because i liked being with them and believe that one can always have fun outdoors if properly clothed and equipped with the right attitude. With his encouragement and that of his colleague, I applied for a vacancy opened by his departure, and became an FOA employee.
As an FOA employee working with my old volunteer colleagues and NPS staff, I learned more about FOA, its Board and its staff. One thing that surprised me was the extent to which NPS staff appreciated the work of volunteers. Certainly we were around only a few hours a week in good weather and lacked their skil, but volunteers nevertheless performed critical jobs well. Also, i was surprised by the amount of volunteer work done in Acadia by groups of high school and college students. Those who volunteer two or three mornings a week almost never see the large groups of students and summer campers who come to Acadia specifically to spend a week doing volunteer work, thereby contributing as many hours as the older volunteers. These youth are not as skilled as older volunteers who have done this work for years, but they are strong and enthusiastic. I loved my work and FOA, but i left the job after a few years because i did not want the stress of full time work. I did not leave FOA. I am back to volunteering, and my wife and i donate as much money as we can, a pittance compared to FOA's needs, to further FOA's mission.
FOA staff get around the country meeting staff of similar organizations at other national parks. They always say that others envy the scope and enthusiasm of FOA's volunteer program. Well, you would expect them to say that, but it is true. We visit other national parks and i always look for volunteer opportunities there. None have "friend" organizations as successful as FOA. There are many reasons for this.
Most national parks are in remote areas. Acadia is on an island, half of which is not in Acadia National Park, surrounded by vibrant communities that depend on tourism. Acadia National Park is not the result of a government agency setting aside uninhabited land for a national park extending over hundreds of square miles. It is the result of dedicated local land owners purchasing or donating small plots of land here and there to preserve them from being over run by tourists or destroyed by unsustainable economic activities. The trails and carriage roads that FOA volunteers work so hard to preserve and protect as an adjunct to the even greater effforts of NPS staff were, mostly, built by private individuals long before the establishment of the National Park Service. Indeed, although the NPS maintains over a hundred miles of hiking trails, an equal amount of hiking trails built by volunteers are abandoned because NPS does not have the resources to maintain them. Acadia National Park is, in sum, not a government project. It started as a volunteer project and volunteers, organized and funded (because even free labor has to be supported with tools, transportation, coordination, and training) by FOA are critical components of its ongoing existence. People realize this and they come together to keep it going.
Friends of Acadia works hand in hand with the Park and finds constructive ways to get people actively involved with supporting and caring for the park. Friends of Acadia is behind or actively engaged in every innovative idea that the Park tries out. People of all ages and backgrounds come together and know they all love this special place. Friends of Acadia keeps us all in touch with the park and with each other.
This organization makes Acadia National Park evn more special than it already is. A fine example of private/public partnership.
My two kids and I have helped raked the Carriage Road in Acadia National Park and volunteered at different educational stations on Family Fun Day in July. Friends of Acadia thanks all volunteers with a cruise and small dinner every September. But this year was the first time we heard about it and joined the cruise. It was awesome. I have also volunteered with other organizations, but Friends of Acadia is the best so far in terms of how it's organized and how they show their appreciation to volunteers.
Friends of Acadia is known to everyone on Mount Desert Island as the organization that works to preserve the natural resources of Acadia National Park. I have admired and supported FOA for years but have only recently, as a volunteer in the Wild Gardens of Acadia, had the opportunity to work closely with their board and staff . The Wild Gardens are gardens of native plant communities located within Acadia National Park. They began in 1961 as a volunteer project of the Bar Harbor Garden Club and have been sustained by volunteers since that time. As the Gardens grew and visitation increased it became increasingly difficult for volunteers to maintain them and the Gardens’ volunteers, fearing for the future, appealed for help from Friends of Acadia, an organization sharing the Gardens’ volunteers’ commitment to conservation of the Parks resources and to volunteerism. Friends of Acadia embraced the project and, working with the National Park, established in 2010 the Wild Gardens of Acadia Committee of Friends of Acadia. In the short time since the formal affiliation I have watched the Wild Gardens, always beautiful and always an asset to the Park, begin to realize their potential. Today a professional gardener, not volunteers, oversees the workings of the Gardens and guides the work of a student intern. Volunteers have been freed to serve as docents for the thousands of visitors and they help with the weeding and gardening when needed. They work with the Head Gardener to plan habitat restoration and with Friends of Acadia to plan for the future. Volunteers continue to help raise funds but now they have guidance and support in their efforts. Friends of Acadia, The Wild Gardens, and the Master Gardeners of Hancock County jointly published a guide to the native ferns last summer. Friends of Acadia has provided a structure in which these activities, and many others, are planned and support with which they are executed. Most importantly the Wild Gardens of Acadia, because of its association with Friends of Acadia, is assured of a future.
Being a volunteer for Friends of Acadia is a wonderful experience! Many opportunities are made available for volunteers according to their time and interests. volunteers work on the trails and carriage roads in Acadia National Park from May to November, clearing brush, rehabilitating old trails, creating new ones, clearing drainage ditches, and improving vistas. other volunteers help in the Wild Gardens at Sieur de Mont Springs, on the Schoodic Peninsula and with the annual summer fundraising gala. In the spring many volunteers join in the annual Earth Day cleanup, which makes the communities surrounding Acadia as beautiful as the park. in the fall hundreds of people from all over come to participate in Take Pride in Acadia Day. Friend of Acadia does a great job of providing some thing for everyone, families, school groups, outing clubs, young and old. Friends of Acadia educates and trains their volunteers, provides tools, transportation and support for their efforts. And volunteers are well recognized for their contribution to Acadia in many ways, making the whole effort a rewarding experience. The result? Volunteers provide more than 10,000 hours of help a year to preserve, protect and enhance Acadia while enjoying a sense of pride and camaraderie.
As a resident of Mt. Desert Island and frequent user of beautiful but cash-strapped Acadia National Park, i am often surprised at how much Friends of Acadia does to further opportunities for visitors to the Park, who numbered more than 2,500.000 people last year. FOA organizes large numbers of volunteers who maintain and groom the legendary carriage roads I walk and ski on. I marvel as I hike mountain trails beautifully restored with FOA funds. I join local friends who volunteer for FOA's annual roadside cleanup, and have served on a committee that plans walking paths from villages to mountain trail complexes. Our young granddaughter has enjoyed an FOA family day which encourages children to experience the outdoors. I read the fine Friends of Acadia Journal from beginning to end for inspiration and information. I like knowing that any contributions to FOA will be leveraged to the full through partnerships and use of volunteers to benefit so many, many people.
A couple of decades ago my wife and I discovered Acadia National Park. Over the years we spent some of our vacation time there. We've also visited national parks in the west. Acadia may not match some of the western parks for grand scenery, but it is certainly the most scenic place on the east coast. Acadia was close to home, but it took most of a day to get there and a day to return, leaving not much time out of a short vacation. We chose to make the drive of six or more hours to get there because of Acadia's natural beauty, visitor-friendly surrounding communities, and unique features.
Acadia's unique features include about 120 miles of hiking trails that typically lead to spectacular views within an hour, and a system of carriage roads, closed to motor vehicles, that cover 45 miles carefully planned to show the scenery without intruding on it. To add to the attraction, the carriage roads are festooned with beautiful stone bridges that carry the bicyclist or walker across babbling brooks and deep ravines while opening scenic ocean views. In addition, Acadia includes a remote peninsula encompassing an unspoiled section of Maine's rocky coast and most of a large island where visitors are limited and primitive camping under starlit skies is available. These features kept us coming back year after year. When it was time to retire we chose to live in Bar Harbor so that we could enjoy Acadia all year round.
What does a new retiree do with his time? How do people make friends in a new town? Friends of Acadia provided us with tools that make for a happy retirement. FOA helps to take care of a small national park that gets millions of visitors each year in a location beset with harsh winters and fierce storms bringing wind and rain in abundance off the Atlantic Ocean. This environment calls for a lot of work to keep heavily used hiking trails and carriage roads in decent repair. FOA helps by raising funds for an efficient public transportation system that eases visitor impact, by raising funds to furnish the Acadia National Park management with tools, equipment and paid staff to maintain and repair trails and carriage roads, and by encouraging and supporting volunteers who give up some of their time to help maintain Acadia.
As an FOA volunteer I learned about Acadia National Park's history. Unlike western national parks, Acadia was not created by setting aside an undeveloped wilderness already owned by the federal government. Acadia's history goes back a long ways. Its first European visitor, Samuel de Champlain, founded the first European settlement in eastern North America just a couple of hours east of here in 1604. After the Civil War wealthy Americans, including John D. Rockefeller Jr., brought their families to spend the summer here. These wealthy summer residents, called rusticators, built most of Acadia National Park's hiking trails and carriage roads either by hiring local labor or by doing the work themselves. Anxious to preserve Acadia's scenery from over development, they founded the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, a non-profit organization that bought land and set it aside preserved from development. This private organization gave its land, with all of its privately built hiking trails and carriage roads, along with endowments for their upkeep in many cases, to the federal government for the establishment of the first national park in the east.
Unfortunately, two world wars and an economic depression reduced the federal government's ability to care for Acadia. In 1947 a wildfire burned half of Mount Desert Island, where the majority of the park's land is located. The 1947 fired burned many of the mansions used by rusticators during their summer stays and caused some of them to move on to other places. Hiking trails and carriage roads fell into disrepair and were subject to wash outsand land slides. It was difficult for visitors, whose numbers were reduced during wars and the depression, to enjoy Acadia. This and the 1947 fire devastated the local economy. Something had to be done to save Acadia.
Friends of Acadia was established in 1986 and began raising funds to restore and maintain Acadia. FOA established a permanent endowment for the carriage roads, worked against attempts to surround the park with unsuitable development, endowed the hiking trails, built or restored trails that connect the park to local communities thereby affording local residents the opportunity to enjoy the park without driving, partnered with L. L. Bean to establish and support a free public bus system to carry visitors and residents to and from the park and local lodging places and campgrounds, and sponsored and supported volunteers to work on Acadia's trails and carriage roads, which is where I came in.
Volunteering is really more about the volunteers than it is about the work they do, although any volunteer will be proud of his or her contribution to making the world a better place. In 2010 FOA volunteers contributed over 8,000 hours of their time to work on Acadia's trails and carriage roads. That is a lot of time, but it is unskilled labor that is the equivalent of less than ten seasonal employees. Volunteering has a tremendous impact on the volunteers themselves, the many visitors who see the volunteers at work, and people back home. Proud of their work, volunteers become enthusiastic stewards of Acadia National Park and parks in other places. That stewardship extends to political activity on behalf of parks. Visitors who see volunteers at work commonly offer profuse thanks, thereby enhancing the volunteer's good feelings, and become volunteers themselves either at Acadia or elsewhere. Some of FOA's volunteers spend the cooler months in the south, and, like one volunteer couple I know, volunteer as much at home, Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this instance, as they do at Acadia. Those 8,000 hours have a ripple effect worth many times the $100,000 or so it would cost to replace them with paid labor.
I volunteered for Friends of Acadia for about seven years and my wife volunteers for FOA as well. We have met many of our friends in this area through volunteering. Volunteers whom we have met play important roles in this community. They volunteer at their local library or provide rides to people who need transportation to medical services. In this way the circle of people one knows grows ever larger through networks of other volunteer activities. By volunteering I've learned a lot about Acadia National Park. Despite its small area and millions of visitors, Acadia contains hidden wonders unseen by most visitors that I've been privileged to see through volunteering.
The one thing that FOA's volunteer program has failed to do for the most part is to overcome the proclivity of today's young people to prefer staying inside with their electronic toys to getting out into nature by hiking and biking and kayaking. If we don't get young people involved in the outdoors we risk losing our parklands. In times of austerity how willing would they be to spend tax dollars on maintaining hiking trails or bike paths if they haven't climbed a mountain? If today's young people are fortunate enough to enjoy financial prosperity, how willing would they be to part with some of their wealth to support the environment if they haven't camped under the stars? FOA and many organizations are trying, but so far they have been unable to stem the ebbing tide of outdoor involvement. That has got to be the mission for the future.
We first learned about Friends of Acadia when we retired and now spend six months in the Acadia area. We were drawn to FOA by all the volunteer support that gravitates to FOA. Much of the volunteer effort helps maintain Park trails, Park roads and financial support. We were interested in the development area and fund raising to help support the Park, as federal funds are not sufficient. The most known form of support is the transportation system of propane powered busses. These busses transport people free of charge anywhere in the Park and surrounding areas. The use of the bus system reduces the number of autos driven in the Park, thus reducing the carbon monoxide in the atmosphere. All is not work, as the annual gala party held in August is a wonderful dinner and fund raising auction that helps bind the energetic group of generour volunteers.
I have been associated with Friends of Acadia for more than 20 years in a volunteer capacity, most specifically helping with their benefit each summer to raise funds to support Acadia National Park. Their work to preserve this national treasure is unsurpassed. FOA also partnered with the Garden Club of Mt. Desert (of which I was President 2009-1010) and the Maine Natural History Observatory to publish "The Plants of Acadia National Park" in 2010, a field guide presenting 862 scientific descriptions of plants in the Park, which is used by botanists and visitors alike. The guide is in its second printing. I have never worked with more a more dedicated and professional staff than that of FOA. Their work is vital to the maintenance and care of one of our country's most beautiful national parks.
we began volunteering for acadia in honor of and sadly in memory of our beloved niece Danielle Faramelli. We as a family of atleast 30 people have been going to acadia every year for over 30 years. in 2006 danielle has expressed to her parents that she would like to volunteer there to give back some of the happy times acadia has given us--sadly she was killed in a car accident at the age of 25 before she could ever do this--her mom and dad didnt know if they could ever go to maine again since the loss of their only child-that summer her mom decided she could go if volunteering was part of our vavation--she had no idea all 25 or 30 of us would show up that day in maine-needless to say we fulfilled Danielles wish and have been doing this in her honor every year when we return to the beautiful state of maine-we come from pa, and its a 14 hour drive-we have mostly 6 or 7 carloads of people going every year and we will continue to volunteer in her memory until there is no one left--which wont happen because the third generation has already started-my grandson has been with us there for all 3 of his years already and will be there this year for his fourth year---we all love all of maine--acadia is our favorite having provided us many memories and now the chance to give back is both an honor and privelege.