Park funding act ‘a huge investment’



ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The Great American Outdoors Act recently passed by Congress is perhaps the most important shot in the arm for the National Park Service (NPS) since Mission 66, according to Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. 

Launched in the mid-1950s, Mission 66 was a program to improve infrastructure and expand visitor services in parks across the country by 1966, the 50th anniversary of the NPS. The total cost was more than $1 billion, which is more than $8 billion in today’s dollars. 

Mission 66 built more than 100 new park visitor centers, along with roads, campgrounds and other facilities.  

It was an effort to modernize national park facilities for the baby boom population,” Schneider said. “I think the Great American Outdoors Act is going to be very similar in many respects. It’s a huge investment in our future. When you look at the historical context in Acadia and other national parks, this is going to be a really big moment. 

Within the omnibus Great American Outdoors Act is the Restore Our Parks Act, which creates a fund to provide up to $1.3 billion in each of the next five years for national park maintenance projects. That is a total of up to $6.5 billion. 

The NPS has a backlog of about $12 billion in deferred maintenance projects, so the new fund could cover nearly half of those needed improvements over the next five years. Eliminating Acadia’s current backlog would cost about $65.8 million. 

At the top of Acadia’s list of infrastructure priorities is replacement of the maintenance garage, located at park headquarters, which was built in the 1960s. 

“The facility we have has so many needs,” Schneider said. “It is undersized, it’s not accessible to people with any kind of disability, it doesn’t meet code requirements and it’s not efficient from an energy standpoint.” 

He said the cost of replacing it has not been determined. “We just have very crude estimates at this point,” he said. 

Construction is currently scheduled for fiscal year 2025. 

“It’s possible the Great American Outdoors Act could help accelerate that,” Schneider said. 

Other high priority infrastructure needs include improved housing for program participants at the Schoodic Institute and replacement of the wastewater system at Echo Lake. 

The Great American Outdoors Act will potentially provide national parks with more than eight times the $750 million they received for infrastructure improvements through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. 

The money will come from revenue the government receives for energy production such as oil drilling on federal lands. 

Schneider noted that Maine was the first state whose entire congressional delegation signed on as co-sponsors of the Restore Our Parks Act. 

“Senator [Angus] King, the ranking member on the National Parks Subcommittee, was a leader in getting this bill across the finish line. But it was a bipartisan bill. To see this happen with such bipartisan support is really gratifying.” 

New HQ design 

The park recently completed conceptual designs for a new park headquarters, as well as the new maintenance garage. 

“That allows us to envision this whole McFarland Hill campus as a single campus,” Schneider said. “So, we can have a master design that’s really thoughtful and considers, for example, how you separate maintenance and law enforcement traffic from people just parking to get to work or visitors who need to do business in the headquarters building. 

“It’s really going to be exciting to see that vision come to fruition.” 

 

 

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]

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