In America, everyone owns some of the most beautiful land this country has to offer. It’s ours to enjoy at any time, without fences, without No Trespassing signs. That land is in our national parks whose story will air on PBS beginning this Sunday, September 27 at 8:00pm in Ken Burns’ The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.
Having just spent two weeks at Acadia National Park, I agree it’s one of America’s best. I’m thankful that so much coastal property is open to everyone and that it retains its natural habitat and scenic beauty to this day.
It might not have been that way. Acadia was private land in 1901 when George B. Dorr and Charles W. Eliot were inspired to preserve it. They and others formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations who assembled the land from private landholders big and small. Soon it became clear that the only way to permanently protect the land was through national park status. George Dorr championed the cause and in 1916 presented 5,000 acres as a monument to the nation. In 1919 it became our first national park east of the Mississippi.
Today Acadia covers 48,000 acres. Though protected by law, the work is never done. If no one had followed in George Dorr’s footsteps Acadia would be in sad shape today, plagued by traffic jams, unusable trails and swaths of development on formerly scenic sites. Fortunately, as Ken Burns points out, people are still “willing to devote themselves to save some precious portion of the land they love.”
Friends of Acadia (FOA) is one such group. Formed in 1986 their mission today is to preserve, protect and promote stewardship of the park and its surrounding communities. FOA has restored trails (shown here), worked with L.L. Bean to provide buses that reduce traffic congestion, provided education and stewardship programs and preserved land threatened by development. My husband and I are so impressed by their work that we became Friends of Acadia members several years ago.
Throughout America people are devoting their time and energy to the national parks they love. This land is your land, too. Find out more on Sunday at 8:00pm.
(photo of Friends of Acadia trail crew building a bridge, courtesy Ian Marquis, Friends of Acadia)