ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Rep. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, along with representatives of the state’s three other members of Congress, visited Acadia July 31 to highlight the need for more federal funding to reduce the park’s backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
The visit was organized by the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is conducting a campaign in support of a bill that would provide the National Park Service with up to $6.5 billion over the next five years to address maintenance needs in America’s national parks, monuments and historic sites.
That would roughly cut in half the $12 billion nationwide backlog, which includes about $65.8 million worth of projects in Acadia. The Acadia number has increased by nearly 10 percent since last summer, when the backlog of deferred maintenance in the park was valued at $59.9 million.
Golden said during his Acadia visit that federal funding for deferred maintenance throughout the National Park Service is currently only about $300 million a year.
“We need to get it up into the billions for about five years and reduce that backlog,” he said. “Congress has been kicking the can down the road for a while on a lot of this.”
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said that, while Acadia’s visitation has increased by 59 percent over the past 10 years, maintenance of the park’s infrastructure has not kept pace.
“Things like trails and carriage roads … are in decent shape, especially thanks to the [support] of Friends of Acadia through an endowment,” Schneider said. “So, much of our deferred maintenance is right below the surface of what our visitors see.”
At the top of the park’s deferred maintenance priority list is replacement of the maintenance building, which is too small, inefficient and structurally unsound.
“The maintenance building … is literally going to have a roof collapse if we don’t get after replacing it,” Schneider said.
Keith Johnston, Acadia’s chief of facilities maintenance, said last summer that the building’s walls are “turning back to sand.” He said a preliminary estimate of the cost of the replacing it was $20 million.
David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, said during Golden’s visit last week that FOA has awarded nearly $30 million in grants to Acadia and surrounding communities over the years. A substantial amount of that has gone to improve and maintain the park’s trails and carriage roads.
MacDonald said FOA sees its role as “adding a margin of excellence” for Acadia, not replacing the funding that Congress ought to be providing.
“Part of our mission … is not just to raise money privately, but to advocate for public funding,” he said. “People feel incredibly passionate about this place, but few really understand how underfunded it is.”
MacDonald said he hopes Congress passes the deferred maintenance bill and that Acadia gets “a slug of funding.” At the same time, he said, the park will have “real problems spending that money because of some of the systems the park service has in place, unfortunately.”
MacDonald indicated that some of those obstacles have to do with policies involving hiring and contracting.
“They’re going to have to catch up and be reformed and streamlined, we believe,” he said.
The “Restore Our Parks Act,” which was introduced last year by Maine U.S. Sen. Angus King and three other senators, would give the park service $1.3 billion for repair and construction projects in each of the next five years.
According to the bill’s language, 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.”
That Senate bill and a nearly identical one in the House have strong bipartisan support.