ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — With Jordan Pond and The Bubbles mountains as a backdrop, a few hundred people gathered Saturday morning on the Jordan Pond House lawn to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Acadia.
Several smaller events have been held throughout the year, but Saturday’s event drew all four members of Maine’s congressional delegation, a small group of Penobscot Indian musicians, a 100-member community chorus and roughly two dozen members of the wealthy Rockefeller family.
Sandwiched between a drum, vocal and dance performance by the Burnurwurbskek Singers and renditions by the Centennial Chorus of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful,” several officials spoke about the importance of Acadia and all national parks nationwide.
U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin each spoke of their family visits to Acadia.
Poliquin recounted how, soon after his wife drowned in 1992, “during one of the darkest times of our lives,” he brought his then-toddler son to Acadia to go biking and visit Sand Beach and Thunder Hole.
“Acadia taught me that life is good, our future was strong, and we had each other,” Poliquin said.
King, a former governor, pointed out that although there are many portraits of former governors in the State House in Augusta, the only one who has a statue there is Percival Baxter, founder of Baxter State Park.
“The things that Susan and Chellie and Bruce and I do often will pass away,” King said. “One of the few things we can do is set aside something for future generations, in a literal sense. The Wabanaki people and their ancestors try to look seven generations ahead. [Future generations] won’t remember our names, but they’ll remember what we left for them.”
In her remarks, Pingree admitted that, as a student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor in the early 1970s, she broke park regulations by camping out with friends one night at the summit of Cadillac Mountain.
Pingree was the only one of the four members of Congress to mention the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in northern Penobscot County. She noted that some people on Mount Desert Island objected when President Woodrow Wilson created Sieur De Monts National Monument in 1916.
“I was very proud to see President [Barack] Obama designate [on Aug. 24] a second national monument in Maine history,” Pingree said, eliciting applause. “It is another very special place in Maine, and I think it will offer incredible economic benefit to the Katahdin region but also to the entire state, as Acadia National Park has done.”
Mike Reynolds, deputy director of the National Park Service; Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park; and David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, also addressed the gathering.
Saturday’s event also functioned as an informal family reunion for the Rockefellers, whose forbears were crucial to the creation of the park when John D. Rockefeller Jr. donated thousands of acres on MDI to the National Park Service. Over the century since, his son Laurance S. Rockefeller and other members of the extended Rockefeller family also have donated heavily to other national parks, including Grand Teton, Shenandoah, Virgin Islands, Great Smoky Mountains and Yosemite, among others.
David Rockefeller Jr. spoke at Saturday’s gathering, pointing out that his cousin, Ann Rockefeller Roberts, daughter of Nelson and Mary Rockefeller, was in the audience with her family.
“I’m proud, I must say, of my grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Jr.,” David Rockefeller Jr. said. “All of my family are grateful to call this place our home.”
The highlight of the event was when the Rockefellers were presented with a new bronze plaque, paid for with funds raised by the Bar Harbor Historical Society and other groups, to replace a weathered one that long has been on display outside alongside Ocean Drive near Otter Point. As roughly two dozen members of the family gathered around the new plaque for photographs, David Rockefeller Sr. appeared and was rolled to the front in a wheelchair by an aide, prompting attendees at the event to stand, cheer and applaud.
David Rockefeller Jr. said that his father, at 101 years of age, was the only person around who was older than Acadia National Park.
“I am pleased to note that both of them remain in excellent condition,” he said.
The event also featured a few dozen junior rangers, who along with Reynolds and Schneider recited the junior ranger pledge, with which they promise to explore, learn about and protect Acadia and other National Park Service properties.