RONALD H. EPP, Ph.D. is a historian and professor of philosophy with scholarly publishing and academic library administration experience. His research over the last two decades into the Massachusetts families that influenced the development of conservation philanthropy has resulted in publications and talks to regional and national organizations.
Ronald Epp is the author of Creating Acadia National Park: the Biography of George Bucknam Dorr, forthcoming from Friends of Acadia in spring 2016.
Although he is known as the “father of Acadia” and a co-founder of the oldest national park east of the Mississippi River, George Bucknam Dorr’s seminal contributions to the American environmental movement have gone largely unacknowledged. Even today, those who live in or visit the coastal Maine communities surrounding Acadia National Park do not fully realize the scope of his achievements. This biography is the story of Dorr’s pioneering role in the establishment and development of a unique conservation model that dovetailed with the evolution of the US National Park Service—which shares its 2016 centennial with Acadia.
In developing Acadia National Park, which became a federally-protected reserve in 1916, Dorr embodied key characteristics of the New England land conservation movement: an emphasis on self-determination, innovation, personal leadership, civic engagement, and an ethical commitment to landscape stewardship—characteristics aligned with the strongly-held values of the elite New England merchant class to which his family belonged. Maine’s Mount Desert Island became the setting for Dorr to apply the practical lessons of “Boston Brahmin” philanthropy that tracked back to his maternal grandfather, banker and Harvard College Treasurer Thomas Wren Ward. Yet through his finest work—the creation and management of Acadia National Park—and through his collaborations with park co-founders Charles W. Eliot, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and others—Dorr transformed an elitist social inheritance into an all-consuming commitment to conservation. One hundred years after its founding, this national treasure is visited, enjoyed, and beloved by millions every year.
The first biography of George B. Dorr ever written, Creating Acadia National Park: the Biography of George Bucknam Dorr is based on painstaking research both in the US and abroad, including federal, state, and private archives. Newly-discovered and uncatalogued sources are supplemented by in-person interviews. This work will appeal to general and scholarly readers who care about the philanthropic roots of land conservation, those interested in what has been celebrated as “America’s Best Idea,” and above all, those who know and love Acadia National Park.
In honor of the 2016 Acadia Centennial and in conjunction with the publication of Creating Acadia National Park, Ronald Epp plans a number of readings, talks, and other activities in 2016 centering on the history of George B. Dorr and Acadia National Park. These include:
April 7 – at Jesup Memorial Library (Bar Harbor): Book Launch Party!
July 28 – “The Contributions of Ellsworth Attorney John A. Peters to the “Father of Acadia” at Ellsworth Public Library
August 3 – at the Northeast Harbor Library
August 10 – At Jesup Memorial Library
August 16 – “Writing About Conservation Giants” at Camden Public Library
August 18 – “My Two Decades of Writing About Acadia’s Founder” at the Blue Hill Public Library
August 22 – at St. Saviour’s Episcopal Church (Bar Harbor): Ronald Epp will “represent” George Dorr at the reenactment of Acadia’s 1916 founding celebration
Sept. 16, 5–7 p.m. Book signing at Moravian Bookshop, Bethlehem, PA
Sept. 22, 7:00 p.m. Southbury Public Library, Southbury, CT
Sept. 26, 6:15 p.m. The Amberleigh, Williamsville, NY
Sept. 27, 6:00 p.m. Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, Buffalo, NY
Oct. 26, 12:00 noon. Maine Historical Society, Portland, ME
April 12, 2017, 5:30 p.m. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, MA
c/o Friends of Acadia
PO Box 45
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609