National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Carriage Road Restoration

Description: The construction of 57 miles of carriage roads on Mount Desert Island, in Maine, was financed and directed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., between 1913 and 1940, for hikers, bikers, horseback riders and carriages. Mr. Rockefeller gifted about 44 miles of road to Acadia National Park. Some roads support cross-country skiing and limited snowmobiling.

Acadia's carriage roads are the best example of broken stone roads left in America today. They are approximately sixteen feet wide, constructed with methods that required hand labor. Elements that unify the carriage road system include coping stones, signposts, roadside landscaping, gatehouses, and bridges.

In 1989, a historic resource study on the carriage roads was completed for the National Park Service. The study documented the sequence of the roads' development and construction and made recommendations for their rehabilitation and maintenance.

A successful public-private partnership produced a carriage roads renaissance. Rehabilitation and restoration were funded through a special program of federal construction funds. Friends of Acadia raised matching funds for a Carriage Road endowment for perpetual maintenance. In the spring of 1992, Acadia National Park embarked on the first stage of the restoration of the carriage road system.

The four-year rehabilitation project included: restoration of road surfaces; reopening of scenic vistas; resetting missing or loose coping stones; reestablishing ditches, drainage paths and culverts to arrest erosion; and removal of vegetation from roads, shoulder, and ditches.

The functional partnership involved an important division of labor: federal funds went toward capital reconstruction, while private philanthropic moneys funded maintenance.

Additional work has been accomplished since completion of the phase described above, most notably a $2.5 million rehabilitation of the carriage road bridges. Work continues on the walls and vistas using fee demonstration funding.

Geographic area covered: Forty-five miles of rustic carriage roads around the mountains and through the valleys of Acadia National Park. Located on the coast near Bar Harbor, Maine, Acadia National Park encompasses 47,633 acres of granite-domed mountains, woodlands, lakes and ponds, and ocean shoreline.

List of partners and relationships: Friends of Acadia, the U.S. Government and Acadia National Park.

Accomplishments to date: Restoration of forty-five miles of carriage roads. Annual carriage road maintenance privately subsidized at the $220,000 level.

Key success factors:

  1. In establishing a public/private sector partnership: Friends of Acadia obtained the support of Mr. David Rockefeller, who helped gain congressional attention for the project. Friends of Acadia used its influence with Maine's congressional delegation to gain Senator George Mitchell's support. Senator Mitchell marshaled the appropriate government officials and committees to gain approval for government funding of reconstruction contingent on matching funds from the private sector.
  2. In private sector funding: Mr. Rockefeller took a leadership role in fund raising from the private sector. His and Friends of Acadia's contacts with philanthropists were the keys to raising $4 million in private funds.
  3. In the construction: The expertise and experience of the project manager and the eagerness of his crew to get this long deferred maintenance project done properly both as a demonstration of the crew's sincere love of Acadia and their personal pride in doing a first rate job.

Frustrations: Uncertainty of actual costs to do the job, which made it difficult to present the case for funding support. Unanticipated added costs required for compliance with government mandates.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Everything takes longer and costs more than initial estimates. Anything is possible with the right mix of people and their commitment to the project and to each other.
  2. Start with the end in mind. We accomplished the first stages of the rehabilitation with a seasonal in-house project funded crew that eventually morphed into a permanent in-house crew funded by the endowment and other NPS funds. This allowed us to retain all the best people who wound up fully trained for maintenance and with a good institutional memory of the lessons learned during the rehab project.
  3. No matter how much money you have, it is never enough, particularly with rehabilitation projects. The more you fix up the really beat up areas, the worse the areas that you were originally proud of look. It can easily become a matter of chasing rising expectations. At some point, you have to know when to quit. That said, we're glad we kept our expectations high.

What would you do differently next time: We would not have to feel our way along every step of the way. Knowing what we know now, there would be less of a learning curve and the process would proceed more rapidly. The only mistakes we made were in estimating costs. We inflated an initial $6 million estimate to $8 million in anticipation of unknown costs. It turned out we needed $10 million to complete the project. Next time, we'd take the original ballpark estimate and increase it by 80%.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): "Preserving Acadia" video available through Friends of Acadia. Friends of Acadia Journal (published three times a year).

For more information:

Name: Sheridan Steele
Affiliation: Superintendent, Acadia National Park
Phone/Fax: 207-288-8700

Name: Marla Stellpflug O’Bryne
Affiliation: President, Friends of Acadia
Phone/Fax: 207-288-3340

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvement _X_; Facility Management _X_; Trails ___; Design __; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services ___; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration _X_; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation __; Arts __; Information Services ___; Transportation _X_; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning ___; Tourism ___; Community Relations ___;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: W. Kent Olson, former President, Friends of Acadia Date posted: 3/8/04
Phone: 207-288-3340

About Partnerships
How To
Case Studies
Index of all Case Studies
Carriage Road Restoration
Site Map
Contact Us »
Search »
Horseback riding on the carriage road
ParkNet U.S. Department of the Interior FOIA Privacy Disclaimer