Posts tagged ‘eco-tourism’

April 22, 2010

Eco-Tourists Take Note: Earth Day Is A Lot Older Than 40 On Mount Desert Island In Maine

The author taking the long view atop Cadillac Mountain

If you are an ethical traveler, do you only go to Borneo or Belize?  Why not Bar Harbor? 

I was thinking about this as we celebrate the 40th birthday of Earth Day and take stock in how far we’ve come in the “modern environmental movement.”   There’s a longer view.

Someone said, “The essence of eco-tourism is deep respect for the place.”  If you go to Acadia National Park, you can’t help but be awe-struck by the craggy coastline, pines punctuating a quiet harbor, or a lichen-laden forest.  What should impress the eco-tourist is not only the astounding natural beauty – which drew rusticators way back in the mid-1800s – but also the harmony of sometimes opposing forces.  There’s a working lobster trade that balances natural abundance with commercialism.  In fact, even the tourism trades (such as the rock climbing and kayaking outfitters) operate respecting nature and protecting it. 

This isn’t new.  In the 1920s John D. Rockefeller, Jr. feared the impact of automobiles on Mount Desert Island.  Collaborating with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the designer of Central Park in New York, he helped develop the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a stunning roadway encircling Mount Desert Island and presenting breathtaking views to motorists – while protecting the island’s forests and wildlife. 

Today L.L. Bean continues this tradition.  They support a network of propane-fueled buses to transport hikers, bikers, and sightseers around Acadia National Park, free of charge.  Called the Island Explorer, this system has carried over 2 million passengers, reduced smog-causing pollutants by more than 11 tons, and prevented the release of over 7,300 tons of greenhouse gases. 

Acadia National Park has the only fiord in North America.  It has the highest peak on the eastern coast of the U.S.  And there are 23 more mountains on this island!  There are park rangers there who will teach you about peregrines and show you the stars over Sand Beach.  Somehow, it’s a particularly fitting place for Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, a marine research institution founded in 1898, The Jackson Laboratory, another independent, non-profit organization focusing on mammalian genetics research to advance human health, and the College of the Atlantic, where all students major in Human Ecology, the study of our relationship with our environment. 

Environmentally aware travelers to Acadia National Park have their choice of 130 miles of hiking trails or 57 miles of carriage roads for biking.  If you’d like to find the guides and outfitters who will help you explore Acadia National Park in a respectful way and with as much awe as a first-time visitor, I recommend you contact Acadia Mountain Guides or Maine State Sea Kayak.  Details for both are available at OUR ACADIA, where you will find more information about “our national park on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.”  There are also tips about lodging, restaurants, and local markets for lobster, crabmeat, local cheeses, and organic produce. 

Conde Nast Traveler recently ranked Mount Desert Island among the “Enduring Edens,” twelve islands that remain beautiful, despite their popularity.  Bali and Capri are also on that list, but they are certainly a lot further away.  If you are genuinely concerned about the disastrous impact of air travel on the environment, you might want to opt for Maine instead of Madagascar for your next eco-adventure.  There are even eight ways to get there without a car.

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June 17, 2009

A Red, White, and Blue Holiday in Maine…Goes Green

Bar Harbor ParadeI crave an old-fashioned Fourth of July.

A pancake breakfast sponsored by the Rotary. A parade with lots of flags. A concert on the Village Green. Fireworks on a waterfront.

And that’s exactly what I am going to get because I’m going to spend this Fourth of July in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Chris Fogg, Executive Director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, says, “We have a very traditional celebration Blueberry muffinsthat hits everything Maine is known for.” That means, of course, that there will be lots of blueberries and lobster. To benefit the YMCA scholarship program, local businesses will be racing lobsters in a “crustacean contest.” There will be a crafts fair featuring quilts, photographs, and porcelain dolls. And a highlight is the Seafood Festival in the local ballpark with a menu of lobster, mussels, corn, and strawberry shortcake.

There’s one new tradition that may surprise you, though. The town goes to extraordinary lengths to make the celebration as green as, well, a forest in Maine.

For the last three years the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce has been partnering with the MDI Rotary Club and College of the Atlantic in some interesting ways to make the Fourth of July Celebration more eco-friendly. The Blueberry Pancake Breakfast and Seafood Festival use materials, including napkins and eating utensils, which are recyclable and compostable. The “silverware” is made out of potatoes – another great product of Maine. With all of the shopping that goes on in this charming village, the Chamber of Commerce also sells shopping bags recycled from plastic bottles.

Although these measures are special for the holiday, they are not unusual for MDI. For example, L.L. Bean supports a network of propane-fueled buses to transport hikers, bikers, and sightseers around Acadia National Park, which occupies about two-thirds of the island. Called the Island Explorer, this system has carried over 2 million passengers, reduced smog-causing pollutants by more than 11 tons, and prevented the release of over 7,300 tons of greenhouse gases. And it’s free.

In fact, the island has a long history of eco-tourism. In the 1920s John D. Rockefeller, Jr. feared the impact of automobiles on Mount Desert Island. Collaborating with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the designer of Central Park in New York, he helped develop the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a stunning roadway encircling Mount Desert Island and presenting breathtaking views to motorists – while protecting the island’s forests and wildlife.

So, if the wholesome holiday and eco-commitment haven’t convinced you where you want to spend America’s holiday, perhaps the outdoor agenda will. For an affordable family vacation in Maine, Acadia National Park offers 130 miles of hiking trails and 57 miles of car-free carriage roads for biking. From whale watching to oceanariums, there are lots of things to do with kids in Acadia.

For more information about Bar Harbor’s Fourth of July celebration, check out the Events calendar at www.barharborinfo.com.   OUR ACADIA offers candid reviews on restaurants, rentals, and boat trips.

April 7, 2009

Put away your Blackberries and turn off the video games. It’s time for family nature camp in Maine.

Why do kids have all the fun?  Surely, in this economy parents need a real break, too.  Now College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, has the perfect solution – a sensibly priced vacation of nature programs, boat trips, hiking, and biking.  It all takes place on Mount Desert Island, one of the world’s most beautiful islands.

 

whale-watch4The first big difference about this camp is that all activities are intended for the whole family.   The program is best-suited for children who are at least 5, but there doesn’t seem to be an upper-age limit.  Even the most skeptical adolescents, who dread the experience will be “lame,” seem to leave bestowing accolades. 

 

In fact, so many people end up loving Family Nature Camp that COA has designed special field trips designated for returning families.

 

Experienced staff helps plan activities for each family.  Most days are spent participating in two or three programs, including field trips with naturalists and local experts.  Activities are conducted at the college, which occupies 35 oceanfront acres, and in adjacent Acadia National Park.  What kind of activities?  Well…

 

  • Go on a whale watch 25 miles off the coast; if you’re lucky, you’ll see not only whales, but also harbor seals, gray seals, pods of harbor porpoises and North Atlantic puffins. 
  • Learn about the business and politics of the Maine fishermen.  Check out farming pens where Atlantic salmon are raised and watch your captain haul lobster traps. 
  • Go on a boat trip where the divers bring back a bag of underwater creatures such as lobsters, sea stars, scallops, sea cucumbers and other surprises – which you get to hold. 
  • Visit “active” beaver sites and get a close look at beaver lodges. 
  • Discover incredible facts about bats (some eat fish; other make tents!) and hear their ultrasound echolocation with the aid of a bat detector. 

star-fish1In addition, there’s free time for self-guided hikes, walks, and other activities.  (Sea kayaking is available for an additional fee.) Transportation is provided for most field trips, but families can be pretty independent as well.  For example, you can walk or take the free bus to the village of Bar Harbor to enjoy the shops, restaurants, art shows, and evening concerts.

 

Everyone stays in the College of Atlantic student housing on a campus that’s one of the “greenest” in America and eats in the college cafeteria.  Although the rooms and shared bathrooms are Spartan, meals include bountiful New England fare such as homemade fish chowder, chicken pot pie, and blueberry cobbler.  (If your kids have had past vacations staying in plush hotels with room service, there might be a lesson in these accommodations, too.)

 

 

Family Nature Camp rates are: Full Week – $900 for participants 16-years-old and older; $450 for children 15-years-old and under; Half Week – $500 for participants 16-years-old and older; $250 for children 15-years-old and under. These fees include housing, all meals, activities, field trips, and three boat trips! 

 

Now that’s an “eco-tourist’s all-inclusive.”

Summer 2009 Sessions: July 5-11, July 19-25, July 26-August 1, August 2-8.  For more information, visit College of the Atlantic Family Nature Camp.

For more information about Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, visit OUR ACADIA.

 

 

 

June 28, 2008

Do Eco-Tourists Go to Acadia National Park?

If you are an ethical traveler, do you only go to Borneo or Belize?  Why not Bar Harbor?

 

I was thinking about this the other day as a read an article about “green travel.”

 

Someone said, “The essence of eco-tourism is deep respect for the place.”  If you go to Acadia National Park, you can’t help but be awe-struck by the craggy coastline, pines punctuating a quiet harbor, or a lichen-laden forest.  What should impress the eco-tourist is not only the astounding natural beauty – which drew rusticators way back in the mid-1800s – but also the harmony of sometimes opposing forces.  There’s a working lobster trade that balances natural abundance with commercialism.  In fact, even the tourism trades (such as the rock climbing and kayaking outfitters) operate respecting nature and protecting it.

 

This isn’t new.  In the 1920s John D. Rockefeller, Jr. feared the impact of automobiles on Mount Desert Island.  Collaborating with Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., the son of the designer of Central Park in New York, he helped develop the 27-mile Park Loop Road, a stunning roadway encircling Mount Desert Island and presenting breathtaking views to motorists – while protecting the island’s forests and wildlife.

 

Today L.L. Bean continues this tradition.  They support a network of propane-fueled buses to transport hikers, bikers, and sightseers around Acadia National Park, free of charge.  Called the Island Explorer, this system has carried over 2 million passengers, reduced smog-causing pollutants by more than 11 tons, and prevented the release of over 7,300 tons of greenhouse gases.

 

Acadia National Park has the only fiord in North America.  It has the highest peak on the eastern coast of the U.S.  And there are 23 more mountains on this island!  There are park rangers there who will teach you about peregrines and show you the stars over Sand Beach.  Somehow, it’s a particularly fitting place for Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, a marine research institution founded in 1898, The Jackson Laboratory, another independent, non-profit organization focusing on mammalian genetics research to advance human health, and the College of the Atlantic, where all students major in Human Ecology, the study of our relationship with our environment.

 

Environmentally aware travelers to Acadia National Park have their choice of 130 miles of hiking trails or 57 miles of carriage roads for biking.  If you’d like to find the guides and outfitters who will help you explore Acadia National Park in a respectful way and with as much awe as a first-time visitor, I recommend you contact Acadia Mountain Guides or Maine State Sea Kayak.  Details for both are available at www.ouracadia.com, where you will find more information about “our national park on one of the world’s most beautiful islands.”  There are also tips about lodging, restaurants, and local markets for lobster, crabmeat, local cheeses, and organic produce.

 

Conde Nast Traveler recently ranked Mount Desert Island among the “Enduring Edens,” twelve islands that remain beautiful, despite their popularity.  Bali and Capri are also on that list, but they are certainly a lot further away.  If you are genuinely concerned about the disastrous impact of air travel on the environment, you might want to opt for Maine instead of Madagascar for your next eco-adventure.  There are even eight ways to get there without a car.

May 20, 2008

Where is Acadia National Park and why are you so obsessed with it?

Acadia National Park occupies about two-thirds of Mount Desert Island, which is 3-1/4 hours north of Portland, Maine.  You’ve heard of Bar Harbor, I’m sure, which is just one of the towns on the island.  Acadia is the only national park in New England and was established by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, the first national park east of the Mississippi.   (You can find a lot more stats and key facts at www.ouracadia.com.)

I am passionate about it because of its incredible natural beauty.  It has the highest peak on the eastern seaboard and the only fjord in North America.  The mountains, dramatic coastline, glacial lakes, and boreal forests are breathtaking.  Most importantly, although there are over two million visitors to Acadia National Park each year, Mount Desert Island regularly ranks today as one of the most beautiful islands in the world.  It has benefited from the efforts of a long line of generous preservationists, most notably John D. Rockefeller, Jr.  Really, Acadia National Park is one of America’s best examples of effective, historic eco-tourism.