ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 18 to support a resolution presented by the Pew Charitable Trusts aimed at addressing the backlog of infrastructure projects of the National Park Service.
Included in that backlog is an estimated $71 million worth of “deferred maintenance” projects in Acadia National Park.
Council members voted to strike language from the resolution opposing a current proposal from the National Park Service to increase fees. The amended resolution calls for “reasonable fee increases” to help address the maintenance backlog.
The Bar Harbor Town Council voted to support a similar resolution on Dec. 5.
“Ellsworth is a natural fit for a resolution like this,” said Friends of Acadia Conservation Director Stephanie Clement, addressing the council members.
Friends of Acadia is working with the Restore America’s Parks Campaign, a project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, to raise awareness of the maintenance backlog, which is estimated at $11 billion nationally.
Deferred maintenance, the campaign said in a report, includes issues such as crumbling roads and bridges, outdated wastewater and electrical systems, and deteriorating buildings.
According to the National Park Service, communities within 60 miles of Maine’s three national park properties saw over 3 million visitors and $274 million in local spending in 2016.
“Much of that benefits Ellsworth as a gateway to the park,” said City Manager David Cole.
In October, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke proposed steep increases in entrance fees at several national parks, including Acadia, to address the maintenance backlog.
Zinke’s proposal would increase fees for weekly passes between June 1 and Oct. 31 from $25 to $70 for a vehicle entrance pass, from $20 to $50 for a motorcycle pass and from $12 to $30 for an individual pass. The cost of an annual pass would rise from $50 to $75. The public comment period on the proposed increases ended Dec. 22.
Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Angus King (I-Maine) have urged the U.S. Department of the Interior to reconsider the proposal, writing in a letter that “given the scale of the maintenance backlog, at almost $12 billion, it is difficult to see how this represents a long-term solution to the problem.”