The federal lands that make up Acadia National Park are intertwined with four towns on Mount Desert Island and several more island and mainland municipalities.
Law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical teams are getting better all the time at working together across the boundaries. But policy decisions made by the towns affect the park and vice versa. There are challenges.
That’s why it’s so important that the channels of communication we enjoy with the Park Service and Department of the Interior offices in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., function well.
When the Mount Desert resident representing that town on the Acadia Advisory Commission stepped down in June, the town advertised the open position and collected applications. The park’s superintendent asked town officials for “a list of individuals recommended by the Town of Mount Desert.” The U.S. Secretary of the Interior makes the final appointment, taking into account the town’s recommendation.
The Mount Desert selectmen opted to not exclude any of the four applicants, forwarding all four names. Park staff will gather more information from the four people and forward those findings to the Secretary. But since the municipal officials avoided weighing in, the Secretary can only conclude that, in the town’s estimation, all four candidates are equally well suited to represent the town on the commission.
It’s not fun to pick winners and losers, but select boards and town councils do it all the time, choosing planning board members or water and sewer trustees, for example. When more than one name is sent to the Secretary, town officials should indicate an order of preference.
Actually, given the importance of town-park relations and communication, it would be nice if several people put their names in every time a member’s three-year term expires. And park officials say they’re hoping to re-stagger those terms, since at the moment too many of the members’ terms expire at the same time.
But especially in the case of an actual vacancy, municipal officials ought to do the Secretary a favor and make an actual recommendation.