ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Park officials are looking into partnering with a private developer to create workforce housing for some of the park’s seasonal employees, Superintendent Kevin Schneider told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday.
Acadia has 33 seasonal housing units in 15 different locations with a total of about 80 beds. That is enough to accommodate about 60 percent of the park’s summertime-only employees.
“Workforce housing is a huge concern both for the park and the community at large,” Schneider said, noting that local hotel operators and others hire many seasonal workers.
“We recognize that we’re probably unlikely to see a whole lot of federal dollars to build new seasonal employee housing. So, we’re trying to figure out another way to address this need.”
He said that, for many years, the military services have partnered with private developers to build housing for their personnel. The rent paid by the military personnel goes to help the developers recoup their construction costs over time.
Schneider said the park is looking at whether that could serve as a model for providing seasonal employee housing.
“The park service actually has specific authority from Congress dating from the late 1990s to enter into public-private partnerships for the purpose of providing our employees with housing,” he said. “And yet, to our knowledge, we’ve never exercised that authority anywhere in the National Park Service.”
Acadia has used a grant from the National Park Foundation to hire a consultant “to help us figure out how we could make something like this work as a pilot project for the National Park Service,” Schneider said.
He said Acadia has been selected as a possible site for that pilot project.
Acadia has two apartment buildings with four units each for seasonal employees on Harden Farm Road, which is just off Kebo Street and adjacent to the Holy Redeemer Cemetery. Schneider told the Advisory Commission that that area is being considered as a possible location for new housing construction.
“The idea is, we could get a private sector partner to build new housing that we would then share with that partner,” he said. “The partner might build two 50-bed units or something to that effect. Perhaps one of those units would be available for our use and the other would be available for the private sector partner to house their employees.”
He said the park hopes to put out a request for information (RFI) this fall “to solicit from the private sector what the interest might be in an opportunity like this.”
“That would give us important information that we could use to craft a request for proposals.”
Park officials have said the lack of housing for seasonal employees hinders their recruitment effort.
“Every year positions go unfilled and we have a lot of unmet needs,” said Christie Anastasia, the park’s public affairs specialist.
“People apply to the National Park Service, not necessarily to Acadia. And if they have two different job offers and one comes with housing and one doesn’t – and the one that doesn’t is in an area where the rent is pretty expensive because it’s a visitor destination – people will easily choose the place that has housing, even if it’s not their first choice of a park.”
She said that, ideally, Acadia would be able to provide housing for 60 to 70 more seasonal employees.
Schneider said the park not only has a shortage of housing for seasonal employees, but some of what it does have is in “moderate to poor condition.”
“Consolidating our housing in a single location or a handful of locations would really be advantageous to more adequately house our summer seasonal workforce.”