ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Faced with increasing demand for space, energy efficiency and physical organization, officials with Acadia National Park have begun looking into where a new headquarters for the park might be built.
It could be at the same location it is now, on Route 233, or at a new site, according to Jim Vekasi, the park’s maintenance chief. He said the park is in the initial stages of the planning process and so is not sure where it might be or how much it might cost.
“We want to do some advance planning so we can better understand the need,” Vekasi said Tuesday. “We’re trying to cast a really wide net.”
Many of the buildings currently in use at the existing headquarters at McFarland Hill originally were built when the site was used as a Job Corps center in the 1960s, he said. The site was home to the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and ‘40s, he added, and before that it was privately owned farmland. Since the 1960s, much of the facility’s growth has been accomplished through piecemeal projects such as installing storage trailers or other modular buildings.
“Some [buildings] are pretty bad,” Vekasi said of the current headquarters. “We have a lot of building code deficiencies.”
Another issue is space, both in terms of workplace facilities and for vehicles, according to Vekasi. The current headquarters double as Acadia’s off-season visitor’s center, when the main visitor’s center in Hulls Cove is closed, but vehicle crowding can occur any time of year, he said.
“It can be hard to find a place to park,” he said.
Among the criteria for a new headquarters is that it be centrally located, that it have enough space for all its various needs, and that it be at a site that is already developed, the maintenance chief said. Acadia is not going to clear a new site out of existing parkland to build a new headquarters, he said. The park might be able to extensively rebuild its existing headquarters facilities to make better use of the current layout, he said, or it might be able to expand at the site, though there are carriage trails located nearby.
Other sites that are being considered include the Hulls Cove Visitors’ Center and the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton, where a storage and maintenance facility for the seasonal Island Explorer bus system is currently under construction.
Vekasi pointed out, however, that the Trenton site is not conveniently located, with most of the parkland and activity on the eastern side of Mount Desert Island. The Hulls Cove site, though more centrally located, presents other problems, he added, including building issues with the center itself and the fact that it is located at the top of a flight of 52 steps from the center’s parking lot.
With the help of two MDI architects, Roc Caivano and Sam Coplon, and with feedback from the public, the park hopes to have a preferred location selected by this fall, according to Vekasi. The park already has held one sparsely attended public meeting, he said, but other opportunities for public input likely will present themselves at other meetings. People can submit suggestions or thoughts online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/.
“There will be some type of public involvement,” Vekasi said. “If someone has an idea, this would be a good time for us to hear it.”
Once the park has a preferred location in mind, he said, it can start to come up with more specific proposals so it knows how much money it will have to request from Congress to make a new headquarters a reality.
“We haven’t put any numbers to it yet. The whole thing will be pretty expensive,” he said. “It could be phased over a long time.”