ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Rob Wallace, assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior, got a firsthand look at deferred maintenance projects while visiting Acadia National Park. Last Friday, Wallace came to park headquarters to learn about the extended backlog of needed repairs, including the replacement of a maintenance facility that houses the construction, electrical and plumbing supplies for the park as well as providing space for work to occur.
Thanks to the recent approval of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), which includes $6.5 billion over the next five years for all national parks, funds might become available to cover some of the roughly $68.5 million worth of needed work throughout the park. Wallace is in the process of visiting parks across the country and will propose spending recommendations to Congress in November. How much Acadia will receive is unknown at this time.
Acadia remains one of the top 10 most visited national parks in the country. Of Acadia’s 49,000 acres, there are 236 buildings, 86 miles of roadways, 17 public water systems, four campgrounds, over 150 miles of trails and about 45 miles of carriage roads within the park.
During the tour with park administration and staff, Facilities Manager Keith Johnston told Wallace that the buildings that comprise the maintenance facility were “never meant to live as long as they were allowed to,” while pointing to a structural crack that meandered through the entire complex.
Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider told those in attendance that park use has increased close to 60 percent over the last 10 years and that the increased use has taken a toll on its infrastructure. He also thanked Maine’s congressional delegation for its work in helping to get the GAOA passed.
Alf Anderson, the executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, also spoke to those in attendance and stressed how the local economy benefits from its close proximity to Acadia National Park, while Friends of Acadia Conservation Director Stephanie Clement offered the organization’s continued support.
After brief remarks, Wallace then followed the park staffers through the maintenance facility, where they not only showed him the dangerous crack that splits through the entirety of the building, but also a parking lot with no room for employee vehicles, a dated construction room that was not up to code, an extra trailer added for workers, an above–ground fuel tank that currently sits in a watershed and a small break room that theoretically should be large enough for the park’s 60 employees, but could maybe hold six. Wallace visited other parts of the park the day before.
The visit concluded with park officials handing Wallace plans for a new campus ready to be built as soon as funds become available. The campus would include a new park headquarters building as well as a new maintenance garage.