Walking in the footsteps of Dorr
Today, in addition to my regular “in town” walk, I hiked a short trail just outside of Bar Harbor called “Compass Point Harbor”. This trail led away from the main road to a small harbor. The land surrounding this harbor was owned by George B. Dorr, who is commonly referred to as “The Father of Acadia” (more on that later). These lands are now part of the national park.
The harbor overlooks the edge of Frenchman’s Bay where it meets the Atlantic ocean. From here one can view the “Porcupine Islands”, a series of small, rocky islands that when viewed from the top of Cadillac mountain were thought (by the early French explorers) to resemble the spines on a Porcupine’s back.
George B. Dorr was the son of one of the wealthy families that summered in Bar Harbor during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He grew up hiking the woods, mountains, lakes, and shorelines that make up Mount Desert Island. In 1901 he, along with 10 other local families met to discuss the concerns they had about Mount Desert Island becoming “over developed”, and that the island was losing its “natural character”. Deciding that the best way to preserve this land was to “let the government-run it” (my how times have changed), these families, led by George Dorr began to donate large parcels of their land and in 1916 six thousand acres were declared a national monument. It would take several more years of tireless work on the part of Dorr before the monument was changed to “Lafayette National Park” (in honor of the early French who explored the island). Now encompassing more than ten thousand acres this would be the first national park east of the Mississippi. Ten years later, in 1929 the park was renamed “Acadia National Park” because some land owners refused to donate their land to a park that was named after “the French”. Acadia also has the distinction of being the only national park comprised entirely of donated lands!
In the end, Dorr spent 47 years of his life (and most of his family’s fortune – as a bachelor he did not need to worry about heirs) working to create and preserve Acadia National park where more than 4 million people visit annually. Walking the granite steps and over the foundation of what used to be his home, my gratefulness to Dorr and those other people of vision is renewed. Because of them I am able to explore, discover, and savor the beauty that is Acadia. What would this place be if not for them?