This is a banner year not only for Maine’s own Acadia but for the park’s managing agency, the National Park Service, which is also celebrating its centennial year.
The National Park Service was established when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act into law on Aug. 25, 1916, 44 years after Yellowstone became the nation’s first national park in 1872.
Prior to the creation of the NPS, the growing inventory of national parks and monuments numbered 35 and were managed by several arms of the federal government, from the Interior Department to the War Department to the Agriculture Department’s Forest Service.
“The National Park Service was needed to bring all the parks under one umbrella to better protect them from people, poaching and the removal of objects,” said John Kelly, management assistant with Acadia National Park.
Today the NPS manages 84 million acres of parklands under 28 designations at 409 sites in the U.S., the Caribbean and South Pacific.
The NPS employs 20,000 men and women, unmistakable in their iconic green and gray uniforms and wide-brimmed hats, with 246,000 volunteers.
“The uniform is straight out of the U.S. Cavalry,” said Kelly. “From the colors and hat to the arrowhead insignia.”
Each year close to 300 million people visit our national park system sites, which have inspired conservation around the world. In 2015, Acadia was host to 2.8 million visitors, and more are expected this year.
“The mission of the National Park Service is really about preserving America’s natural, cultural and historic heritage,” Kelly said. “The NPS aims to balance use with preservation, which is foremost. You’ve got to protect the resource or there will be nothing for people to enjoy.”
In addition to Acadia, there are four other national park sites in or shared with Maine, all worth a visit during this special year of celebrating an important aspect of our national heritage. Make a visit, enjoy the exhibits and sights, take a hike and perhaps join a park ranger for a guided walk and talk.
Acadia National Park
Acadia encompasses 49,000 glorious acres on Mount Desert Island, Schoodic Peninsula, Isle au Haut and a scattering of islands (www.nps.gov/acad). More than 130 miles of hiking trails, 57 miles of carriage roads and 26 mountain peaks are enough to keep hiking enthusiasts busy for a long time. Plan to ride the Island Explorer bus on MDI to avoid the traffic and trailhead parking hassles this summer and fall (www.exploreacadia.com).
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site
This interesting park on the St. Croix River near Calais is the site of a short-lived settlement founded by Pierre Dugua in 1604, the first attempt by the French to colonize this part of North America (www.nps.gov/sacr). Miles of hiking trails are found nearby in the Devil’s Head Conservation Area (www.mainetrailfinder.com).
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Bring your passport to visit Campobello Island in New Brunswick and the summer home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, which can be toured in the company of an interpretive guide (www.nps.gov/roca). Nine miles of hiking paths in the 2,800-acre park lead along oceanfront beaches and bold headlands.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
America’s skinniest national park is the 2,189-mile Appalachian Trail through 14 states from Georgia to Maine (www.nps.gov/appa). In Maine, hikers can enjoy 287 miles of wild mountain terrain from the rugged Mahoosucs to the iconic summit of Katahdin. Pick a section for a day hike or pack up the camping goods and hike into a shelter or tent site for an overnight.
Maine Acadian Heritage Council
This collaboration of historical societies, cultural clubs, towns and museums is dedicated to preserving and promoting Maine Acadian culture, language and history in the St. John River Valley (www.nps.gov/maac). Hikers can explore the local trails on Number Nine Mountain, Mars Hill and Quoggy Jo Mountain for a good look at the Aroostook County countryside.