‘Orphan’ land eyed for workforce housing

Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — It would literally take an act of Congress, but Acadia officials would like to transfer most of a 55-acre parcel of park land in the Town Hill area to Island Housing Trust for use as workforce housing, with the park retaining a small portion for emergency responder housing. 

The rectangular parcel isn’t adjacent to any other park property. There is no public access, and it isn’t even shown on the park’s official visitors map. John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased it in 1956 and gave it to the park in 1960. 

The 1986 federal law that established the park’s permanent boundaries called for the orphan parcel to be given to the town of Bar Harbor for the purpose of building a regional solid waste transfer station. But it soon became apparent that, for a number of reasons, the Town Hill site was not suitable for that use. 

Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said 18 months ago that park officials were talking with officials of the neighboring towns about possibly using the parcel for community workforce housing and housing for park employees. He told the Acadia Advisory Commission last week that park and municipal officials met again last month to discuss possible uses of the property. 

“The consensus that seems to be emerging is trying to use that site for workforce housing,” he said. “The vision would be that Island Housing Trust could take ownership of a majority of the parcel, which they would then use for workforce housing. And there would maybe be 10 to 15 acres that the National Park Service would retain for our employee housing.” 

He later said the priority would be on housing for the park’s emergency responders. 

“The different towns on the island all realize that one of the big challenges we’re facing is the ability to recruit and retain police officers, firefighters and teachers,” Schneider told the Advisory Commission. “And for us in the park, even our permanent workforce is finding it increasingly difficult to live here on the island because of the cost of housing.” 

He said it would take federal legislation to authorize using the Town Hill parcel for something other than a transfer station and conveying it to an organization such as Island Housing Trust.  

“We are looking at trying to get a non-binding statement of support for that from each of the towns [on the island] over the next few months,” he said. 

The Tremont Select Board voted unanimously Monday night to support the park’s proposal. The Bar Harbor Town Council did the same Tuesday night. 

Last year, the park hired a survey company to conduct a “desktop” inventory of the 55-acre Town Hill parcel, which provided maps of the wetlands, contours, zoning, tax lots and a 1956 aerial photo. 

“Our plan was to contract last summer to get a comprehensive site inventoryof soils, trees (more than 12 inches in diameter), vernal pools, delineated wetlands and other topographic features,” said Acadia Public Affairs Specialist Christie Anastasia. “The estimate came back higher than expected, so we opted to hold off a bit.”  

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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