Jenn Bridgers, Administrative Coordinator
All the volunteers at the Preserve bring a selfless passion to the work that amazes and gratifies us. Occasionally, a volunteer comes along whose contribution goes beyond what we generally expect. They bring new ideas and take on substantial responsibilities. Mike Hays is one of those people.
Since 2019, Mike has been volunteering with our lands crew, maintaining trails, building new ones, and fundamentally helping to keep our natural lands healthy and accessible. His enthusiasm for the work and the lands dates back to 1985 when Mike and his wife, Mary, fell in love with Mount Desert Island during their first visit, while they were living in New Hampshire. Avid outdoorspeople, they found the wealth of walking and hiking options suited them extraordinarily well.
During their second visit to MDI in 1986, an acquaintance told Mike and Mary about the roads and trails around Little Long Pond, where well-trained dogs could be off leash. When they visited, they were struck by the beauty and serenity of Little Long Pond, and delighted by how happy and tired their dog was after a romp.
After several more MDI trips and many volunteer experiences including celebrating their wedding anniversary participating in “Take Pride in Acadia Day,” the Hayses moved to Bass Harbor full-time in 2002. They decided to relocate partly because of the rich volunteer opportunities at their local libraries and on the National Park trails they love, and partly because “we noticed the local paper gave as many column inches to the high school arts department as they did to athletics, which indicated a community with its priorities in order.”
Mike served as a frequent volunteer on trail and carriage road maintenance in the Park. In 2003 he accepted the position of Volunteer Crew Leader. For 19 summers, the Park depended on his leadership to guide groups of 6-12 in keeping trails clear. In 2017, Mike received the “Excellence in Volunteerism” award from Friends of Acadia. Meanwhile, the Hayses continued to enjoy the roads and trails around Little Long Pond and sought ways to support the Preserve.
Mike reached out to Preserve Land Steward Ed Hawes who coordinates the natural lands volunteers, asking to help on Preserve properties if volunteers were ever needed. In 2019, the first opportunity came.
The first time a call went out to find volunteers to work on carriage road maintenance in the Preserve, I volunteered. I remember the first job; it was to clear vegetation from the section of carriage road from intersection 32, around Mitchell Hill, to intersection 22, the boundary with ANP and the Amphitheater Carriage Road.
After that Mike gave every hour he could to maintaining Preserve places that he and Mary loved. When asked why the Preserve holds such a special place for him, Mike responds:
The simple beauty. Granted it does not have the high peaks of Acadia, but the beauty is both small--the wildflowers in the meadows, the lichen and moss--and grand--the view of Penobscot Mountain framed by Little Long Pond is second to none on the island. Also, Mary and I have had dogs for most of our married life and the ability to have a well-behaved dog off-leash is such a benefit. Allowing a dog to be a dog, sniffing, and running and generally having a grand time is a joy.
It was not long before Mike noticed that Ed and his trail-building crews had very short seasons in which to make major improvements to trails that were eroding, root-filled, or needed to be moved away from bodies of water. That left little time for pruning and maintaining 10 miles of trails and 10 miles of carriage roads, a chore that could easily take up the small staff’s entire summer, even with volunteer help.
At about the same time, Mike began to wonder why some of his most dependable volunteers in the Park were no longer participating on the Acadia trail crews. He chatted with Betsy Roberts, his most regular and longstanding volunteer, and she shared that the long commutes to and from the job sites were no longer working for her after more than 30 years of volunteering for Acadia.
It occurred to Mike that the Preserve had a great need for lighter-duty volunteers wielding loppers and hand saws, and that several seasoned volunteers were simultaneously seeking a different sort of outdoor volunteer experience.
Mike reached out to Ed and proposed that the Preserve add a new volunteer crew, which would meet weekly on Monday mornings, focused solely on trail maintenance. This new crew would take some of the pressure off Preserve crews who must focus on major trail renovation projects. Ed and Tate Bushell, Director of Natural Lands thought that was a terrific idea, and asked Mike to lead the crew. The program was initially called “Mondays with Mike,” and by all accounts, was a great success. This past year, an average of nine volunteers per day worked for 480 hours over 17 days from May to October.
The 2023 trail maintainer volunteers included: Jean and Don Bell, Megan Harvey Bourke, Alan Chapman, Peter Fleisher, Lorelle Friend, Andrea and David Gilmore, Karen and Ron Greenberg, Mike Hays, Dennis Johnston, James Linnane, Bill McCartor, Deb and Mark Nolan, Betsy Roberts, Sidney Salvatore, Bob Sanderson, Trey Smith, Roger Thompson, Bob Ware, Ruth Yeiser. The Preserve is incredibly grateful for their time and energy.
If you would like to be added to the list of seasonal trail-maintaining volunteers for the Preserve, please send an email to Dianne Clendaniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.