Bill would boost funding for parks’ deferred maintenance

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill recently introduced by Maine Sen. Angus King and three of his congressional colleagues would cut roughly in half the $11.6 billion backlog of “deferred maintenance” in America’s national parks, monuments and historic sites, including $59.9 million worth of projects in Acadia National Park.

Those figures were as of Sept. 30, 2017, according to a National Park Service report.

Deferred maintenance projects are defined as those that have been on hold for more than a year.

The new Senate bill, titled the Restore Our Parks Act, would create the National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund to provide the NPS with a maximum of $1.3 billion in each of the next five years for a total of up to $6.5 billion. The bill provides that the money would come from government revenues “from oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy development on federal land and water that are not otherwise credited, covered or deposited under federal law.”

It isn’t yet known how much of that money would be earmarked for Acadia. If the money is allocated proportionally across the National Park Service, Acadia likely would receive around $31 million over the next five years.

Keith Johnston, Acadia’s chief of facilities maintenance, said the park’s highest priority deferred project is replacement of the maintenance facility at park headquarters.

“Five years ago, the building was determined to be structurally inefficient for the weather here,” he said. “It has never been code compliant. It’s not ADA accessible. The walls are turning back to sand.”

Johnston said a new building would need to be larger to meet the park’s operational needs.

The estimated cost of replacing the maintenance facility is $20 million. Johnston said only a portion of that would be in the category of deferred maintenance; the rest would be capital improvements.

“Deferred maintenance is what you’re averting by not maintaining the facility, but it’s certainly not the entire cost of the job,” he said.

Second on the park’s priority list is replacement of a three-mile-long overhead power line in the Schoodic Peninsula section of the park that was strung in the late 1940s. Johnston said the price tag on that is about $1.2 million.

The Restore Our Parks Act is a compromise between two similar bills that previously had been introduced, one by King (I-Maine) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and another by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

King testified in support of the new bill at a July 11hearing of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, of which he is the ranking member.

He said that because of a lack of federal funding for maintenance and improvements, “the parks are in trouble.” He spoke specifically of Acadia, which is the seventh most-visited of the 59 national parks.

“Acadia is not the most visited national park in the country … but I would venture to say it is the most visited national park per square foot,” King said. “It is one of the smallest national parks, and yet we have three million visitors a year, which is twice the population of Maine.

“It is a hugely important part of the economy of the region, and to jeopardize what is essentially an economic magnet because of a failure to provide maintenance is just short-sighted in the extreme.”

The Restore Our Parks Act has the support of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the National Parks Conservation Association, the “Restore America’s Parks” project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. Travel Association and the Outdoor Industry Association.

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]
Dick Broom

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