ACADIA NAT’L PARK — In the wake of the 35-day shutdown of the federal government in December and January, Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider has authorized supervisors to work overtime on weekends, if necessary, to speed up the process of hiring this year’s seasonal employees.
“That’s a very unusual thing; we don’t normally to that,” he told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday. “We are very concerned about our seasonal hiring.”
The park typically hires 120 to 150 employees for the busy summer season.
“This is the time of the year when our human resources office is producing lists of candidates for us and the time of the year when our supervisors are [reviewing the lists] of eligibles, interviewing candidates, making selections and going through what is a very lengthy hiring process for the federal government.
“I don’t have a sense of where we are and what that means for when people start.”
Schneider said the first seasonal employees usually start working in mid to late April.
He said the clock is also ticking on the job of selecting contractors for various park projects.
“In order to meet our target of obligating funding by September 30, the end of our fiscal year, we need to be working through the contracting process,” Schneider told the Advisory Commission. “And depending on the size of the job, that process can be quite lengthy.”
He pointed out that the 35-day government shutdown represented about 10 percent of the year.
“And it takes another week just to get the flywheel back up and spinning,” he said. “That is really significant in terms of the amount of lost time and productivity.”
One high-priority item that the shutdown put on hold was final approval of the much-anticipated comprehensive transportation plan, which is aimed at alleviating some of the park’s traffic and parking problems. Park officials had hoped to have it wrapped up by the first of this year.
“Now,” Schneider told the advisory commission, “We are still working through the review process in Washington. We hope to have the final (plan) out this spring.”
“We were hoping that by this time, the DOI (Department of the Interior) would have signed off on the transportation plan and then the wheels would start to turn on implementation,” David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia (FOA), told the group. “That’s nowhere in sight right now. So, not only is 2019 not going to see any benefit from the transportation plan, I don’t know about 2020.”
That is just one of the negative effects of the government shutdown on the park, MacDonald said.
“There’s so much work that’s important to this park that goes beyond swinging the gates open,” he said. He pointed to the visitor education, youth engagement and resource protection programs that FOA works on with the park.
“Our programs are going to be affected long term,” he said. “Acadia is pretty resilient, but we understand that [the impact on] some of the longer-term priorities to preserve and protect this park really…are going to be quite significant.
“FOA is going to do whatever we can,” MacDonald continued. “We want to help Kevin [Schneider] and his team…to find efficiencies and try to catch up a bit.”