ACADIA NAT’L PARK — A bill to validate Acadia’s annexation of 1,441 acres on the Schoodic Peninsula, including the new Schoodic Woods Campground, has been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Maine Sen. Angus King.
It is titled the “Acadia National Park Boundary Clarification Act.”
The Acadia Advisory Commission and a number of Mount Desert Island area public officials had called on members of Maine’s delegation to introduce 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 publicly opposed that expansion, many argued that it could not legally occur without congressional action. They cited a 1986 law that established 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 states that, henceforth, the secretary of the interior may not use any authority granted by the 1919 or 1929 legislation “to acquire land or interests in land for addition to Acadia National Park.”
King introduced the bill in the Senate on June 7. It has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, of which King is a member.
King said in a statement on Wednesday that nearly everyone agrees the Schoodic parcel is a wonderful addition to Acadia.
“But I also agree with local residents when they say that it’s critical that the acquisition is done in accordance with the intent of the 1986 law that affirmed the boundaries of Acadia.”
He said his bill would accomplish that, as well as “clarify the exact boundary of the park moving forward.”
The bill also would make permanent the Acadia Advisory Commission, the 16-member citizens’ panel that serves as a liaison between park officials and its neighboring communities. The advisory commission was created by the same 1986 law that established Acadia’s permanent boundary.
King’s bill also would amend the so-called “reverter clause” in the deed to the Tremont Consolidated School.
In 1950, land was transferred from Acadia to the town of Tremont for construction of the school. The deed provided that if the land were no longer to be used for “school purposes,” it would revert to Acadia.
There are currently no plans to use the property for anything other than a school. However, the possibility of merging the Tremont Consolidated School and Pemetic Elementary School in Southwest Harbor has been discussed in recent years. One of the models of consolidation that was floated involved closing the Tremont school.
King’s bill provides that the property “shall no longer be required to be used exclusively and perpetually for school purposes if the land is being used for public purposes.”
A bill to eliminate the “reverter clause” in the school’s deed was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014, but was never acted on by the Senate.
Reporter Mark Good contributed to this story.