[April 2, 2016]
On April 2, Friends held its Annual Meeting on a lovely spring day at Viles Arboretum in Augusta. This event is always a celebration of good work, an inspiration for work yet to be done, and a chance to gather with fellow members to share stories and enthusiasm about the Park. This year was no exception. After morning coffee and muffins, President Dick Klain brought the meeting to order with a brief synopsis of the year’s many accomplishments, membership growth, and financial status. He summarized that Friends is in very good shape as an organization. This was followed by more detailed reports from Friends committees. These included the success of the eighth Maine Youth Wilderness Leadership Program, an update on the Plants of Baxter State Park field guide, Walks in the Park, advocacy efforts related to AT hikers, and the proposed National Monument on lands east of Baxter State Park.
Dick Klain then introduced Park Director Jensen Bissell for his annual “State of the Park” address. As usual, this was a highlight of the gathering and there were many questions for Jensen. After a coffee break, Sean Birkel, the Maine State Climatologist, gave an overview climate change in Maine and the possible effects on Baxter State Park. Sean covered a range of topics, including extreme weather events, flooding, added moisture content in the soil, longer and warmer summers, loss of habitat, loss of species, invasive species, and disease vectors. An audience member asked about BSP management practices that would help alleviate the worst of these effects. Jensen Bissell answered that improvements in infrastructure, bridges, culverts, and erosion control measures will help, and that these measures are already underway. Monitoring ecosystem health will also be very important to identify potential threats early and implement strategies to contain or eliminate those conditions.
After this serious topic, Executive Director Aaron Megquier lightened the mood with a presentation of images from the 2017 BSP Calendar. This part of the meeting was accompanied by the sound of ooohs and aaahs in reaction to an amazing variety of colorful sunsets, summit views, wildlife, flora, pond reflections, autumn foliage, and snow-capped peaks. These images remind us of the vastness, beauty, and fragility of Baxter State Park and why it is so important to protect it.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Dick Klain presented Park Director Jensen Bissell with the “President’s Award for Damn Good Work,” and Sean Birkel was presented with a Katahdin USGS Benchmark replica in gratitude for his presentation. After the meeting adjourned, the hungry crowd enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches, side dishes, desserts, and beverages. In the afternoon Aaron Megquier led a hike to the Annie Sturgis Wildflower Sanctuary in Vassalboro. All in all it was a lovely day. Thank you to all who participated and attended, and we hope to see you next year.