ACADIA NAT’L PARK — A bill to validate Acadia’s annexation of 1,441 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula, including the Schoodic Woods Campground, was approved July 13 on a voice vote by the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
No date has been set for a vote by the full Senate. If it passes the Senate, the bill will go to the House of Representatives.
Maine Sen. Angus King introduced the bill June 7. Maine Sen. Susan Collins, whose staff also worked on the bill, has signed on as a co-sponsor.
The Acadia Advisory Commission and a number of area public officials had called for the introduction of such a bill after the National Park Service (NPS) announced last fall that Acadia’s boundary had been extended to include the Schoodic property.
Although no one has expressed opposition to that expansion, many argued that it could not legally occur without congressional action. They cited a 1986 law that was intended to establish the park’s permanent boundary.
However, the NPS maintained that laws passed in 1919 and 1929 gave the secretary of the interior the authority to add to the park’s holdings and that the 1986 boundary legislation did not repeal that authority.
King’s bill aims to validate the expansion of the Schoodic section of Acadia, stating, “The boundary of the park is confirmed to include approximately 1,441 acres of land and interests in land … .”
But the bill also makes clear that, henceforth, the NPS may only acquire land within the boundary of Acadia established by the 1986 law. And it would repeal the provisions of the 1919 and 1929 laws that the NPS cited as justification for the Schoodic annexation.
King is a member of the Senate committee that approved his bill. Following the committee’s vote, he issued a statement in which he said, “The land on the Schoodic Peninsula was a welcome addition to the park, but as local residents have rightly said, it’s critical that it’s done in accordance with the 1986 boundary legislation, and it’s important that everyone is on the same page about where the park ends and the communities begin from now on.”
The title of King’s bill, introduced as the “Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act,” has been changed to the “Acadia National Park Schoodic Peninsula Land Ratification and Approval Act.”
In addition to resolving the Schoodic annexation question, the bill would amend the so-called “reverter clause” in the deed to land under the Tremont Consolidated School.
In 1950, Acadia transferred a parcel of land to the town of Tremont for construction of the school. The deed provided that if, at any time, the land were no longer used for “school purposes,” it would revert to Acadia.
As originally worded, King’s bill said the Tremont land would not have to be used strictly for school purposes but could be used for “public purposes.”
The wording of that section of the bill was expanded prior to its being voted on by the Senate committee. It now states that the land must be used for public purposes “subject to the conditions that use of the property shall not degrade or adversely impact the resources or values of Acadia National Park, and the land shall remain in public ownership for recreational, educational or similar public purposes.”
The bill also would make permanent the Acadia Advisory Commission, the 16-member citizens’ panel that serves as a liaison between park officials and neighboring communities.