A full moon rises over the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park in a view from the top of Cadillac Mountain. FILE PHOTO

Parks, towns intertwined

Acadia and its neighboring communities have the dictionary definition of a symbiotic relationship – “interdependent and mutually beneficial.”

The park needs the towns not only to provide places for visitors to eat, sleep and shop, but also to cooperate on all sorts of issues – from transportation planning to the siting of cell phone towers – to protect the park’s natural resources, provide emergency services and enhance the visitor experience.

The surrounding communities, in turn, depend on the enormous economic boost provided by the park’s nearly 3 million visitors a year.

For the most part, the park and its neighbors have a cordial, cooperative relationship. Helping to keep the lines of communication open is the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission. The 15-member commission includes nine residents of area towns, three members appointed by the governor of Maine and three by the United States secretary of the interior. This citizen’s advisory panel meets several times a year to learn about new programs or initiatives the park is planning and to provide feedback.

The 1986 federal legislation that created the advisory commission also established Acadia’s permanent boundaries. In fact, that was the main reason for the law.

For a number of years, Acadia’s boundaries had been expanding as property owners on Mount Desert Island donated land to the park. Public officials and ordinary residents of the neighboring communities were concerned that, as the park grew, their towns were shrinking and losing more and more of their taxable property. The fear that this might continue unchecked prompted a group of leaders from towns around the park – with the support of Acadia officials – to ask the state’s congressional delegation to introduce legislation establishing boundaries beyond which the park could not grow.

That law greatly improved park-community relations.

However, in 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) announced that it had accepted a gift of 1,441 acres to enlarge the section of Acadia on the Schoodic Peninsula. Park service legal advisors cited a 1929 law that authorized the secretary of the interior to accept donations of land for Acadia.

But many local public officials and others see that annexation, which enjoys widespread public support in surrounding towns, as a violation of the 1986 boundary law. And the Acadia Advisory Commission, which also has backed adding the land to the park, has asked Maine’s members of Congress to introduce a bill authorizing, after the fact, the annexation of the Schoodic land and also specifying that no future expansion of Acadia can occur without an act of Congress.

Lee Worcester, Southwest Harbor’s representative on the Acadia Advisory Commission, is among those who think such assurance is needed.

“My greatest concern is that we are going back to that time when we had greater angst between our communities and the national park, and I don’t see that being productive for either one,” he said.

Advisory Commission Chairman Steve Katona agreed: “We don’t want this to fester and to mar a really happy celebration of the centennial both of the park service and Acadia.”

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.