For his pivotal role in securing lasting protection for Maine’s special places
Acadia National Park. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Hog Island. Grand Lake Stream. Most Mainers associate Ken Olson with only one of these special places, Acadia. Yet, each of them—and many, many more—has been restored or enjoyed new protections as a result of Ken’s professional work and citizen activism.
Ken has had a distinguished career in conservation: as a chapter director for The Nature Conservancy, the president of American Rivers, a senior staff advisor to The Conservation Fund, and finally the president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, from which he will retire in early 2006. His resume glitters with awards and recognition. But, although he is an inspirational leader and skilled manager, Ken is—above all—a man who loves and respects nature.
He is a hiker, paddler, and keen observer of the natural world. His interests have taken him across this country, and luckily for us, brought him to Maine. At Friends of Acadia, Ken has led efforts to restore the park’s 130-mile footpath complex, to improve access for people with disabilities, to prohibit jet skis, and to reduce the amount of pollution generated by vehicles through the creation of the Island Explorer propane bus system. Acadia is one of the most popular national parks in the country, and under Ken’s leadership, its wildlife and resources are less stressed by human engagement than many parks with far, far fewer visitors.
Less visibly, but no less passionately, Ken has advocated for greater protections for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. He has worked closely with the Natural Resources Council of Maine and concerned citizens to ensure that the waterway remains forever wild. He produced River of Broken Promises, a legal history of the waterway that has come to serve as the Bible for activists trying to ensure that this beautiful wilderness is managed the way it was intended to be.
Ken is the author of numerous books, essays, and, of course, our favorite, letters-to-the-editor. Through them, he takes us down wild rivers, across remote mountain trails, and through the dark passages of government offices where environmental policies are crafted. On paper or in person, he connects people to the natural world and in turn calls on them to be responsible stewards of our wild and special places.
For our part, we are grateful that Ken chose to be a steward of so many wild and special places here in Maine.