BAR HARBOR — The town council voted Tuesday to ask Maine’s congressional delegation to add a provision to the Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act that would transfer ownership of 50 acres of park-owned property off Crooked Road in Town Hill to the town.
Council Chair Gary Friedmann said the property could be used for employee housing and solar energy generation.
The motion the council passed asked that the land request be added to the bill new Acadia boundary bill “when submitted.” But the bill had already been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate a few days earlier, on Jan. 10.
It might be possible to amend the House bill, which has to go through the committee process, if 2nd District Rep. Jared Golden agrees that the land transfer provision should be included.
But amending the Senate bill, submitted by Maine Sen. Angus King, would be much more difficult. That bill has been combined with a number of others in an omnibus public lands bill. All of the bills in that package were endorsed by the relevant committees in the last session of Congress, so the entire package can go directly to a vote by the full Senate.
According to congressional staff members, amending the Acadia bill at this point likely would mean it would have to be taken out of the package and resubmitted as a separate bill. That would certainly delay and possibly jeopardize its passage this year.
The parcel of Acadia-owned land in question is 50 acres, according to the Bar Harbor tax assessors’ database, not 40 acres as referenced in the motion the town council passed. The fate of that parcel, which is not adjacent to any other park land and to which there is no public access, has been uncertain for more than 40 years.
The bill that Congress passed in 1986 establishing Acadia’s permanent boundary recognized that the park should contribute to the management of Mount Desert Island’s waste stream. It directed the National Park Service to convey the land to Bar Harbor for the purpose of building a regional solid waste transfer station. The bill also provided that the Department of the Interior would contribute 50 percent, up to $350,000, toward the cost of construction.
But it soon became apparent that, for a number of reasons, the Town Hill site was not suitable for a transfer station.
In 2016, then-Rep. Bruce Poliquin granted a request by Tony Smith, chairman of the Acadia Disposal District (ADD), to include in his Acadia boundary clarification bill the removal of restrictions on the use of federal funds authorized 40 years earlier for solid waste management.
A section of Poliquin’s bill would have had the Department of the Interior give $350,000 to “a regional consortium [the ADD] established…for the purpose of improving the management of the disposal and recycling of solid waste…on as well as near Mount Desert Island.”
However, that provision was taken out of the Acadia boundary bill before it passed the House last May and was endorsed by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in August.
The idea of asking that the new boundary bill provide for the transfer of Acadia’s Town Hill parcel to Bar Harbor originated with Friedmann, the town council chair.
“Since the solid waste issues at the time of the 1986 park boundary legislation no longer exist, this parcel could be ideal for a combination of park employee housing and solar energy generation,” he said in a Jan. 7 memo to Town Manager Cornell Knight.