ACADIA NAT’L PARK — “It looks like we will be inheriting a lighthouse in the next month or two,” John Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday.
Two years ago, the U.S. Coast Guard offered to give the iconic Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse and its 2.5 acres of land to the park. The property, which includes the light keeper’s house, is surrounded by park land and is commonly assumed to be part of Acadia.
Park officials quickly expressed interest in the Coast Guard’s offer, but it has taken a while for the two parties to work out the details.
“We got word from the Coast Guard just a couple of weeks ago that they are ready; they’ve got their transfer documents together,” Kelly said.
While Acadia will own the lighthouse, the Coast Guard will continue to maintain the light itself as an aid to navigation. Part of the delay in reaching a final agreement has been figuring out the best way to power the light. Kelly told the Advisory Commission that the Coast Guard has decided to go with “the solar option.”
He told the Islander on Tuesday that he wasn’t sure where the solar panel would be located. But he said it would be small and inconspicuous. He noted that the light in the park’s Baker Island lighthouse is powered by a small solar panel on the catwalk on the outside of the tower, just below the light.
Kelly said the park is in the process of developing a report that documents the history of the lighthouse “and gives us some guidelines on what our parameters are for using it in terms of changing the structure while keeping the historic integrity.”
The lighthouse was built in 1858. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Kelly said park officials are still considering ways the lighthouse property might be used.
“A big part of that is dealing with the transportation issues there,” he said. The existing parking lot can accommodate fewer than 30 vehicles, and both the town of Tremont and the park now prohibit parking on Lighthouse Road, which leads from Harbor Drive to the lighthouse.
“It is an area where we very much need to address access by the Island Explorer [buses], better parking and better circulation,” Kelly said.
Planning for new HQ
Schneider told the Advisory Commission that the park is beginning pre-design work on the replacement of the park’s headquarters building and maintenance garage on McFarland Hill, both of which were built in the 1960s.
“That’s going to allow us to develop good cost estimates for these projects and good scopes-or-work so that we understand the square footage requirements for both of these,” he said.
Schneider said that redesigning the headquarters campus also will allow the park to move the fueling station for park vehicles from its current location, which is just up the hill from Eagle Lake, the source of drinking water for the town of Bar Harbor.
“We can pull that [fueling station] out onto this side of the hill and remove that potential contaminant from the watershed,” he said.