After more than 15 years at Friends of Acadia, the last four as president and chief executive officer, Marla O'Byrne is stepping down, a career move that opens up a wonderful position at a great national park.
Ms. O'Byrne has been with the organization since 1996, when she joined it to edit the Friends of Acadia Journal and work as stewardship director. She held that position until 2007, when she took the helm of the friends group.
Friends of Acadia was founded 25 years ago to help "preserve, protect, and promote stewardship of the outstanding natural beauty, ecological vitality, and distinctive cultural resources of Acadia National Park and surrounding communities for the inspiration and enjoyment of current and future generations."
The organization raises private funds for the park and "related projects in surrounding communities, advocates for funding and policies before the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, defends the park against threats, and gathers and leads a corps of dedicated volunteers who work on stewardship and other projects."
Among its accomplishments, the friends group has:
* Raised funds for the rehabilitation and ongoing maintenance of Acadia’s 130-mile trail system, making it the first endowed national park trail system in the country.
* Challenged Congress to appropriate $4 million to reconstruct Acadia’s 44-mile carriage road system and raised funds to create a matching endowment to maintain the park’s carriage roads in perpetuity.
* Purchased for protection 25 acres on Acadia Mountain that were threatened with imminent development.
* Co-developed and co-funded the fare-free, propane-powered Island Explorer public bus system and obtained funds to expand it. Results: reduced vehicular traffic and emission pollutants.
* Halted proposed clear cut and negotiated a more sensitive timber cutting on 1,600 acres of land along the park’s Schoodic border.
* Raised funds and purchased 369 acres of land for the Acadia Gateway Center and worked with partners to successfully advocate for millions of dollars in congressional appropriations to lessen the impact of traffic in the Mount Desert Island region.
* Reconstructed the Schooner Head Path, the wheelchair-accessible Jesup Path, and Canada Cliffs Trail through the Acadia Trails Forever partnership.
* Forged strategic relationships with Maine Coast Heritage Trust and L.L. Bean, among others.
In March 2011, the National Park Conservation Association honored Friends of Acadia with its annual Marjory Stoneman Douglas Citizen Award, recognizing the group's conservation partnership with the National Park Service and its strong, effective advocacy for Acadia.
Located in Bar Harbor, Maine, Friends of Acadia employs ten full-time staff and operates with a budget of more than $3 million.
The position of president and CEO understandably carries some weighty responsibilities. The individual must oversee successful implementation and oversight of all aspects of running the friends group, "including conservation, stewardship, development, external relations, governance and general management."
In consultation with the organization's board, the president sets the direction and tone of Friends of Acadia, manages a staff of ten, implements recommendations from the strategic plan and represents the organization to the public. He/she works closely with the park superintendent, as well as with other partners and the National Park Service, Washington officials, U.S. Congress, the Maine Legislature and local governments to advance Friends of Acadia’s mission.