Gifts fund Acadia’s Trails Forever

In July 1999, then-Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt announced a second public-private partnership, one he called a landmark initiative – a $13 million project to restore and reopen hiking trails in Acadia National Park. Like the carriage roads, many of these had not been well maintained because of a lack of funds and staff.

The public-private partnership campaign included $9 million to be raised by Friends of Acadia and $4 million which came from park entry fees and other government funding.

Thanks to a lead gift of $5 million from Ruth and Tris Colket, summer residents of Bar Harbor, FOA raised its $9 million in just under a year. Of the 1,000 contributors, 60 percent gave gifts ranging from $5 to $100, said Acadia Trails Forever Chairman Charlie Tyson.

“I’m enormously gratified that so many people love and support the park – 60 percent under $100 is incredible,” said Ruth Colket in July 2000. “What a difference so many people make and how important they are.”

Of the $9 million that FOA raised, three endowments were established: $5 million for maintaining the trails once they were restored, $1 million for the Acadia Youth Conservation Program and $500,000 for the Ridge Runners. The endowment for the YCC was given by Gale and Shelby Davis, summer residents of Northeast Harbor. The endowment for the Ridge Runners was given by a donor who wished to remain anonymous.

The project to restore the carriage roads and the restoration of the trails were similar in many ways: Both were joint endeavors, both sought funding from a range of donors, and both included endowments to ensure that once restoration was complete, the trails and roads would remain in good condition.

The park not only restored – and now maintains – 128 miles of trails on Mount Desert Island, 18.5 miles on Isle au Haut and 8.2 miles on Schoodic, but it also constructed eight village connector trails and reopened over 5 miles of the park’s abandoned trails and over 3 miles of former fire roads.

Anne Kozak

Contributer at Mount Desert Islander
Anne teaches writing at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.

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