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A Celebration of Acadia

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Maine’s Acadia National Park, Martha -- who is passionate about preserving and protecting it for the future -- hosted a dinner for the Friends of Acadia to benefit the carriage roads that wind through this beautiful and rugged place.

Although I am a relative newcomer to Mount Desert Island, having purchased my house on the edge of Acadia National Park in 1997, I feel as if I have always been there. Like most of the homeowners on this magnificent island, I have become totally enamored of everything the place has to offer: the park, the woods, the moss, the sea, the granite cliffs and outcroppings, the ponds, the climate, the views, the other islands, the abundant seafood, and the diverse outdoor activities.

Last year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Acadia with a series of events that ran the gamut, from lectures to cocktail parties and dinners to gala evenings, and even a four-day weekend of carriage rides chaired by my friend Gail Clark to benefit the nonprofit Friends of Acadia and the park’s carriage roads. Originally constructed by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in the early 1900s, these rustic, car-free pathways meander through the woodlands, offering scenic vistas of the landscape. Decades ago, they suffered neglect, but they are now maintained beautifully, thanks to a joint private-public partnership between the Friends of Acadia and the National Park Service. They are enjoyed by bikers, joggers, baby strollers, and horseback riders, as well as horse-drawn carriages.

For the fun-filled weekend, teams of 15 roof-seat break carriages brought by the Coaching Club, 80 horses, and beautifully attired whips (or drivers of these carriages), grooms (caretakers of the horses), and passengers enjoyed more than 45 scenic miles of groomed carriage roads. We drove from morning through the afternoon, taking in the expansive views of the woodlands and sea and enjoying the gorgeous weather. Kevin Schneider (pictured) is the superintendent of Acadia National Park. He came on our drive, offering great historic insight along the way.

I own an original Bar Harbor buckboard, one of the early carriages that carried visitors through the park. It is stored in my carriage house, on a turntable.

We reconvened for cocktails and dinner at a different home each night. On Saturday evening, I hosted a lobster bake for the group at my historic carriage house, one of several 1925 structures located on my property, Skylands. All the whips and owners of the carriages attended, as did the other hosts and hostesses and many friends. Dom Pérignon was poured and many toasts were proffered honoring the park’s birthday.

My longtime friend and employee Kevin Sharkey and I welcomed guests to the party.

For dinner, we served grilled local lobsters, which were finished with herb butter; grilled Mount Desert Island oysters; salmon chowder; salad from the garden; and tarte tatin for dessert. The buffet was served outdoors. It was delicious, and the evening was lovely.

The evening was marked by heartfelt speeches. David Rockefeller (who passed away in March at 101 years old) gave a memorable one. 

I was extremely happy to be part of this amazing gathering, which incorporated so many of the island’s antique traditions, and introduced some new and innovative ones for the future. I can’t wait to return.

A Walk in the Park

Acadia is a beautiful place any time of year. But I encourage you to visit and see for yourself. A few facts:

  • 1

    Located predominantly on Mount Desert (pronounced dessert) Island, Maine, Acadia National Park protects more than 47,000 acres of land. It has 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of public carriage roads.

  • 2

    It is one of the most visited national parks in the U.S. The park receives more than 2 million visitors each year, most during the warm summer months.

  • 3

    Cadillac, the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast, has a peak of 1,530 feet. You can drive or hike one of the many trails that lead to the top and see glorious 360-degree views.

  • 4

    The park is home to lots of wildlife, including hundreds of birds like warblers, loons, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons, which visit throughout the year.

  • 5

    The nonprofit organization Friends of Acadia was founded in 1986 to preserve, protect, and promote the stewardship of the park.