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The National Park system never ceases to amaze. One of its parks is an international one -- shared with Canada -- and it commemorates America's longest-serving president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I had the privilege of visiting Roosevelt Campobello International Park back in the halcyon days before 9/11, when crossing the border between the two countries was a lark. (In fact, the last time I crossed the border here was just a few days before 9/11, and I recall the agent saying, "Oh, it's you again," as he waved me through.)

Roosevelt's parents purchased the house in 1909, after his mother, Sara, fell in love with Campobello Island and the property itself. Roosevelt spent many summers here as a child and as an adult. Today, the park serves as a memorial to the late president and acts as a symbol of cooperation between the U.S. and Canada. As the park is wholly within Canada, it's due to that nation's good common sense that American visitors can visit as easily as they still do. You just cross the FDR Memorial Bridge from Lubeck, Maine, to Campobello Island in the province of New Brunswick, checking in with U.S. and Canadian border stations on either end of the short bridge.

Even Canadians from elsewhere wanting to visit Campobello have to cut through the U.S. (except in summer, when there is a ferry service from the island to other parts of New Brunswick).

During one vacation here in August 1921, FDR was stricken with polio at the age of 39. He continued to visit the park, but with less frequency than before his illness. In 1964, the U.S. and Canadian governments created the park and have jointly maintained it since.

Highlights

The Roosevelt house is a delightful building with many small rooms, a garden, and great views. Called a cottage because it was used only as a summer house, the three-story, three-chimney structure somewhat resembles a big red barn.

At the Visitor Center, watch the video, and check out the small bookstore and exhibits about FDR. Within the cottage, guides are stationed at several places to answer questions as you tour at your own speed. You can see President Roosevelt's office as it was during his 1933 visit, his bedroom, Eleanor's writing room, the fairly spacious living room, the dining room and kitchen, as well as the laundry area, the nursery, and family bedrooms.

I was especially interested in the tiny bedroom occupied by FDR's éminence grise, Harry Hopkins. Four more cottages on the property are also part of the park; the Hubbard Cottage is available for public viewing when not in use as the park's conference center.

Within the park are eight miles of trails, running along rugged shorelines, bogs, and forests. FDR taught his children how to sail here, and together they hiked, swam, played tennis, and bicycled. There are also eight miles of driving roads in the park's 2,800 acres, as well as picnic areas with nice views. As you tour the rest of the island, you'll note that fishing is the principal industry here, just as it was in FDR's day. Along the park's western shores, you can see herring weirs and nets holding farm-raised salmon.

Hours and Fees

The grounds and natural areas are open year-round from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The Visitor Center and the Roosevelt Cottage are open in summer only, and then daily.

There is no admission fee for the park.

Contacts

Roosevelt Campobello International Park (tel. 506/752-2922; www.nps.gov/roca)

Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission (www.fdr.net)