By Dennis Hoey, Portland Press Herald Staff Writer
One of America’s wealthiest individuals has decided to celebrate his 100th birthday in style by donating not money, but more than 1,000 acres of fields, forest, streams and a freshwater pond on Mount Desert Island to a local nonprofit organization.
David Rockefeller will make a formal announcement Friday of his gift of Little Long Pond and surrounding land to the Land and Garden Preserve of Mount Desert Island.
David Rockefeller, shown here in a 2007 photo, still owns a summer home in Seal Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, where he spends most of his holidays and the entire month of August, his family says.
The Land and Garden Preserve is a public charity governed by a 25-member board of directors. Its mission is “preserving, for public enjoyment, the aesthetic and spiritual heritage of certain horticultural and natural landscapes on Mount Desert Island.” The organization also cares for two gardens in nearby Northeast Harbor – the Asticou Azalea Garden and the Thuya Garden – and manages 140 acres of open space near Eliot Mountain.
Rockefeller, who has homes in Manhattan and Westchester County, New York, is an international banker and philanthropist. He has summered at his family home in Seal Harbor since he was a child. His parents purchased their first home in Seal Harbor in 1910.
“This magnificent state and its wonderful residents have been such an integral part of my family’s history. It is my hope that the public should forever benefit from this beloved tract of land. I am delighted to make this gift to all the people of Maine,” Rockefeller said in a statement.
Rockefeller was born June 12, 1915, the son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. He served as chairman and chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Corporation for many years. The millionaire philanthropist, whose wife, Margaret, died in 1996, is the oldest living member of the Rockefeller family. He still owns a summer home in Seal Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, where he spends most of his holidays and the entire month of August, his family says.
Rockefeller’s daughter, Neva R. Goodwin, serves as president of the Land and Garden Preserve. She has a home in Seal Harbor. The Rockefellers had six children.
“My father’s generosity will ensure that Little Long Pond and the beautiful land and trails around it will always be open to public access for walking, hiking, horseback riding, and the other outdoor activities that are an important part of the allure of the beautiful state of Maine. What a grand and appropriate way for this wonderful man to celebrate his 100th birthday,” Goodwin said in a statement.
Under the agreement with the Land and Garden Preserve, the Rockefeller property which is situated between Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor, will never be developed and will remain accessible to generations of islanders, Mainers, and the thousands of tourists who visit Acadia National Park each year.
Rockefeller’s property abuts Acadia National Park.
“It’s really a spectacular tract in every way. Its size and natural diversity make it so important to so many people on Mount Desert Island,” said David MacDonald, who serves as president and chief executive officer of the Friends of Acadia. “The walk around the pond is very beautiful. Many people start their day there.”
In winter, islanders can skate on the pond or snowshoe through the nearby fields and woods. The land features several hiking trails and carriage roads that extend from Acadia National Park into Rockefeller’s property. The carriage roads are maintained by Rockefeller’s crews.
MacDonald, who also serves on the Land and Garden Preserve’s board of directors, said that arrangement gives Rockefeller more flexibility in his management practices.
While pedestrians and equestrians are welcome on Rockefeller’s carriage roads, bicycles are not permitted on those roads. Bicycles are, however, allowed on the carriage roads inside Acadia National Park.
MacDonald said the land that Rockefeller is donating will be protected from development pressures. Not only would development go against the mission of the Land and Garden Preserve, but any type of development would violate terms of conservation easements that were placed on the property several years ago by Maine Coast Heritage Trust – an organization based in Topsham.
Rockefeller’s land donation stretches from the preserve’s land on Eliot Mountain eastward to Barr Hill and the Stanley Brook Road. It does not currently include the privately owned Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden, but that property may be donated to the preserve in the future.
Several Acadia hiking trails, including Asticou Ridge Trail, Harbor Brook Trail, and the Jordan Stream Path, extend into Rockefeller’s property.
A new trail that cuts across Rockefeller’s land in a west to east direction from Eliot Mountain should be ready to open this summer.
“Our message is there will be no change in uses or public access for the foreseeable future. People love the land the way it is and this makes it certain that it will remain that way,” Goodwin said.