July 18, 2010

Obamas pursue the 'quiet side' of Maine park

Vacationers on Mount Desert Island Saturday try to catch a glimpse of the first family, or avoid the crowds.

By REBEKAH METZLER Kennebec Journal

BASS HARBOR - There are two types of vacationers on Mount Desert Island this weekend: those who want to see the Obamas and those who don't.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, Malia Obama
click image to enlarge

President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, right, and daughters Malia and Sasha, center right, stand with Coast Guard Station Chief Tim Chase, left, as they visit Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on Saturday.


Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Sasha Obama, Malia Obama
click image to enlarge

President Obama and his daughter Sasha lead the way as the first family walks toward the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on Saturday. They’re followed by Bo, first lady Michelle Obama and older daughter Malia.

Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press

Additional Photos Below

Some of the former were deeply disappointed when a Hancock County sheriff, aided by a member of the Secret Service and a pair of park rangers, shooed them away from the entrance to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse on Saturday afternoon.

The road was blocked in anticipation of a presidential visit just after 2 p.m., but pedestrians from the nearby campground were tipped off by the flashing lights of security vehicles and ventured over to snap photos.

President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters -- 12-year-old Malia and 9-year-old Sasha -- have spent the weekend visiting Mount Desert Island.

On Saturday, their entourage crossed over to what's known locally as the "quiet side" of the 108-square-mile island. Mount Desert Island is split nearly in two by Somes Sound; one side is home to tourist mecca Bar Harbor and much of Acadia National Park. The other, home to the working fishing village of Southwest Harbor, national park campgrounds and the lighthouse at Bass Harbor, gets fewer visitors.

"We voted for him," shouted one disgruntled bystander who was kept back from the lighthouse entrance. Another said, "But I'm a Democrat!"

The 15 or so onlookers were told by Hancock County Sheriff Deputy Corey Bagley that they were obstructing traffic, even though they were standing behind the law enforcement-erected barrier.

"I'm disappointed," said Dorothy Jarvis of West Palm Beach, Fla. But she quickly added, "I didn't really expect to see him, anyway."

The Obamas left their hotel, the Bar Harbor Regency, about 10 a.m. and headed to the Bar Harbor Club, a private fitness and spa center. Later, they lunched at The Claremont Inn near Southwest Harbor at the mouth of Somes Sound. From there, the family traveled by motorcade to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.

They drove by several bystanders standing in private driveways along the road leading to the lighthouse about 2:20 p.m. Once there, the family explored the building, even taking a walk on the catwalk, which offers views of Blue Hill Bay.

The Obamas then hiked down to Ship Harbor Trail, a short walk mostly along the shore.

Although Jarvis and other onlookers were miffed at missing the show, others were not.

"We were cognizant of what they might be doing," said Cate Fitzgerald of Glens Falls, N.Y., who was sunning on the rocks between Thunder Hole and Otter Cliff on Saturday morning with her husband, Ed.

The pair said they were staying at the same hotel as the Obamas, but didn't know their visits were overlapping until a friend in Portland told them. Besides having to use a different parking lot than expected, the Fitzgeralds said they hadn't noticed much of a disruption. Nonetheless, they planned their daily activities based on where they thought the Obamas wouldn't be, they said.

"We heard they went to Cadillac (on Friday), so we decided to go up early today," Cate Fitzgerald said.

Ed Fitzgerald, a University of Maine graduate, said they had vacationed in Acadia several times, but this was a little different.

"We don't go back to the hotel as much," he said, adding that each time they returned, their car was subjected to a thorough search.

Other island visitors were pleased that news reports of the president's visit seemed to be keeping folks away.

Ivan Schwendt of Bangor, who was biking on a path near Jordan Pond House with his 12-year-old son, Adam, on Saturday, said they also had been unaware of the presidential visit.

He heard it on the radio as they were driving down for their day trip to Acadia.

"I almost turned around, because I thought it would be too crowded, but then I thought that everyone would do that," Schwendt said. "I'd love to meet them, but I'm happy there's nobody here."

Though the trails may have been bare, popular Sand Beach was overflowing with visitors. That may be why the Obamas avoided it despite temperatures in the high 80s.

The Obamas were scheduled to depart from Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton this morning. 

Kevin Miller of the Bangor Daily News, representing Maine in the White House Press Pool, contributed to this report.

MaineToday Media State House Reporter Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:



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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Ed and Cate Fitzgerald of Glens Falls, N.Y., take in the view from the rocky coast at Acadia National Park on Saturday. The Fitzgeralds found out on the way to Maine that their trip to the park would coincide with the visit of President Obama and his family.

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Barack Obama
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Crowds of camera-clicking onlookers gather to catch a glimpse and a photo of President Obama and his family as they leave a restaurant after dinner in Bar Harbor on Friday evening.

Charles Dharapak/The Associated Press


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