Sunday, November 4, 2012

Requirements for a National Park Memorial
As the author of The Memorials of Acadia National Park, I'm often asked the question, "How does one establish a memorial in Acadia National Park?" My answer always is, "It's not easy."

A hundred years ago, the situation on Mount Desert Island was quite different than it is here today. In 1901 a group of influential summer residents, under the inspiration and guidance of Charles W. Eliot, then Harvard's president, was worried that development of MDI would forever diminish its beauty. That year they formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations and chartered it in 1903 for legal status in Maine. They purchased land and sought land donations on MDI, which they later donated to the U.S. Government for federal preservation and protection. The Trustees honored some of the buyers and donors by remembering them or their loved ones in the form of memorials. They promoted these commemorative works as a way to encourage further land donations to the Trustees and U.S. Government. This spirit continued as the Park progressed through its development and expansion as Sieur de Monts National Monument (1916), Lafayette National Park (1919) and Acadia National Park (1929). Thus, Acadia NP came to be composed almost entirely of donated land.

The National Park Service, established in 1916 -- the same year as Sieur de Monts NM, seemed to encourage commemorative works as well. Shortly after its first director, Stephen Mather, had died in 1930, the NPS placed a bronze memorial plaque in his honor in just about every one of the national parks. In Acadia NP Mather's memorial is on the summit of Cadillac Mountain.*1
Times have changed. Ninety years after its establishment the NPS issued its Management Policies 2006.*2 On page 140, in section 9.6, titled Commemorative Works and Plaques, the document defines what a commemorative work is and states the rationale and justification for its establishment.
            Definition: "commemorative work means any statue, monument, sculpture, memorial, plaque, or other structure or landscape feature, including a garden or memorial grove, designed to perpetuate in a permanent manner the memory of a person, group, event, or other significant element of history. It also includes the naming of park structures or other features—including features within the interior of buildings."

            Rationale and justification: The NPS "will discourage and curtail the use and proliferation of commemorative works except when" authorized by Congress or there is compelling justification for the recognition of the person or event. The document states that compelling justification must meet two criteria: exceptional importance and at least 5 years have elapsed since the death of the person or at least 25 years have elapsed since the event.
Despite the certainty and clarity of Management Policies 2006, it is possible to establish a commemorative work in a national park. At least that's the case in Acadia NP. In 2008 the Park installed its latest one on the east side of Jordan Pond.*3  This bronze plaque, mounted on a hillside boulder, commemorates the vision and generosity of Ruth and Tris Colket to Acadia Trails Forever, the joint Acadia NP/Friends of Acadia program to restore and care for the Park's historic hiking trails.*4

Colket Memorial


Since the founding of the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations, 47 individuals and 1 organization have been commemorated on Acadia NP property by a plaque, an engraved granite stone or a path name. Within this number are 8 memorial paths the Park no longer maintains and thus they are not shown on current maps.

So, there is hope that others who have given selflessly of themselves to extend, maintain or promote Acadia NP will someday be remembered with a commemorative work. After all, memorials have been at the heart of Acadia NP's origin and growth.


1 Mather memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 21.148'  W068° 13.454'

2 To see this document, go to:

3 Colket memorial GPS coordinates: N44° 19.735'  W068° 15.076'

4 For a description of this program, see: