ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Park employees were back on the job Monday following the 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government, and they are working to make up for the lost time.
But it is uncertain whether all of the park’s roads, facilities and visitor services will be ready by April 15, which is the target date for fully opening the park each year.
Asked Tuesday if everything will open on schedule this spring, Superintendent Kevin Schneider said, “I don’t know yet.”
The major obstacle was the 35-day delay in hiring the 120 to 150 seasonal employees the park needs.
“Those folks start coming on in April so they can turn on water systems, so they can open up Ocean Drive and Cadillac Mountain, so they can start opening our [seasonal] employee housing,” Schneider said. “And if we don’t have those activities occur, it means other seasonals can’t start, so it’s sort of a domino effect.
“There are a lot of steps in hiring a federal employee,” he continued. “We’ve got to do background investigations for people, which take six to eight weeks. There’s processing time to just bring people on. So, all of this is work we need to be doing now in order to be ready for the summer season.”
Schneider said some of the full-time employees who are back at work are going through the park “to take stock of what happened or didn’t happen over the last 35 days.” Others are trying to catch up on planning for various summertime projects.
Schneider said his top priority, now that everyone is back at work, is making sure they are paid promptly for the five weeks they were furloughed. He said everyone should have their pay by the end of this week or early next week.
The park’s law enforcement rangers and dispatchers continued to work during the shutdown, but without pay, as did some maintenance employees who were called in as needed.
“Their dedication to the park really showed through,” Schneider said.
For those who worked and those who didn’t during the shutdown, Schneider said, “Having to go 35 days without a paycheck is really tough. Personally, I had days when I was angry, frustrated. Having to let our workforce know how to access our local food banks is not something I ever expected to have to do as a manager.”
Schneider said he was grateful for all the support the park’s employees received.
“This community stepped up in a really powerful and touching way…[including] businesses that said they were going to give our folks a break,” he said. “All that is a symbol of how much people care about the park and care about their neighbors.”
In addition to making sure employees are paid, a high priority for the park is paying its overdue bills.
“We have vendors who have gone unpaid, utilities that haven’t gotten paid,” Schneider said. “So, our staff is now going through the mail and all of those unpaid bills and getting those companies paid. That’s part of the ripple effect of the shutdown. It didn’t just affect us; we owe money to people.”
He said Friends of Acadia played an important role during the shutdown, including providing the public with information about accessing the park.
Schneider said the employees who were furloughed are very happy to be back at work.
“For them, the park is much more than just a job; it’s something they care deeply about. And it’s tough when you’re put on the sidelines.”