CAMPOBELLO ISLAND, New Brunswick — Opening day at Roosevelt Campobello International Park was fantastic, park personnel reported Sunday, with the number of cars 58 percent higher than last year.
“But you must remember the weather last year,” cautioned Vern McKimmey, the park’s marketing director. McKimmey said the park even had two tour buses — of about 30 expected this season — arrive the day before the park opened. Although they were unable to enter Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s cottage, they actually got a bonus: Ken Burns’ Florentine Films was at the park filming a documentary.
“Everyone was saying they were excited and enjoyed themselves,” McKimmey said.
The film will tell the story of the relationships among Eleanor, Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt and will be released on PBS in 2013.
Paul Barnes, a co-producer, was carefully setting up the lighting and table settings for a dining room scene when the first bus pulled in.
A half-dozen theatrical lights and myriad cameras filled the exterior of the room. Extension cords snaked through the hallways.
Barnes said it was his third visit to the park — the first two were scouting missions. He had high praise for the Roosevelt Cottage and staff.
“Everything has been maintained so perfectly,” Barnes said. “I am really impressed. You get a real sense of the people who lived here and recognize just how they lived.”
Barnes said the filming would portray cottage life as it was and will evoke a feeling that the Roosevelts just left the room.
Co-producer Pam Tubridy Baucom said the film will be a six- or seven-part series lasting about 14 hours. After five days of filming at Campobello Roosevelt International Park, editing will begin next week. “It is a two-year process,” Baucom said. “We strive for realism.”
Baucom also had praise for Maine, Campobello and the park.
“This is such a beautiful place,” she said, speaking of the Roosevelt Cottage. “It has been unbelievably maintained. It is absolutely pristine.”
Baucom said a crew of seven arrived for filming, staying in local cottages and eating at area restaurants.
Keeping a close eye on the film crew were the curatorial staff. Darlene Savage lives on the island and has worked at the cottage for 15 years. She wears white gloves to handle the artifacts, which she said she loves.
She proudly provides little details about each room in the cottage, showing off the Roosevelt children’s nursery, the kitchen, servants’ rooms and the master bedroom with a full-length window seat looking out to sea.
McKimmey said Roosevelt Campobello International Park includes the cottage, the visitor center and gardens. It has 2,800 acres of natural forests and beaches with walking trails, beaches, bogs, forest and spectacular ocean headlands.
Jointly managed by the U.S. and Canada, the park was the summer home of the Roosevelts, a place Franklin D. Roosevelt called his “beloved island.”
McKimmey was hired last year to turn around a deep drop in attendance. From 150,000 visitors five years ago, only 100,000 visited last season, he said. McKimmey blamed a combination of effects for the downturn: poor weather, the economy and new border crossing identification requirements by the U.S. “Every time someone crosses that border, it is good for Washington County,” McKimmey said. “Every tourist we can bring to Campobello and the park is a tourist that shops, eats, fuels up and spends money in Maine. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
If this weekend’s surge of tourists is any indication, McKimmey said the park is in for a great season. “Everything is going pretty well, and the weather has been wonderful,” McKimmey said Sunday.
The park is reached by crossing the FDR Memorial Bridge from Lubec, Maine, or, in summer, taking a ferry from Deer Island, New Brunswick.
For information about Roosevelt Campobello International Park, go to www.fdr.net.