May 23, 2018
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Acadia officials narrow options for new headquarters

Brian Swartz | BDN
Brian Swartz | BDN
Hikers descend the South Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, on July 8, 2012.
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — In looking for places to build new headquarters for the park, Acadia officials have decided to stick to locations where they already have infrastructure in place.

They still are closely considering building new facilities in the Bar Harbor village of Hulls Cove, where the park’s seasonal visitors center is located, and at the current headquarters location on Eagle Lake Road.

Acadia officials told the park’s citizen advisory commission on Monday that both the visitors center and the park’s headquarters are outdated and in need of renovations. The buildings are small, inadequate for the public’s needs, and not up to modern safety standards, even though the park’s staff has decreased in recent years, according to David Manski, head of the park’s resource management division.

“We still are quite cramped in many different places,” Manski told the commission.

The main access to the current visitor’s center in Hulls Cove is up a long series of stairs. The visitors center is open only seasonally, closing in the winter when tourist season ends and on days in the summer when it gets too hot inside. The park’s headquarters on Eagle Lake Road serves as the visitors center in winter.

Manski said park officials essentially have ruled out building a new headquarters at any site other than where the visitors center or current headquarters are located.

There are four possible scenarios being studied, he said. One is to leave everything as is, an option that the federal government says must be considered. Another is to erect new buildings at the existing visitors center and headquarters sites but keeping the current functions of each site largely the same as it is now.

A third option is to move park headquarters to Hulls Cove and to renovate the site so it includes both the visitors center and park headquarters, while keeping some storage capacity on Eagle Lake Road.

The fourth would be to keep the park’s maintenance division at the current headquarters site but to move all other functions to a new headquarters facility in Hulls Cove.

“I feel pretty strongly that we do not want to mix maintenance traffic with visitor traffic,” Sheridan Steele, Acadia’s superintendent, told the commission.

When the park might start work on whatever plan it chooses is unknown. The biggest factor is funding, which can be hard to come by, and a final plan is needed before Acadia officials can determine how much the project will cost or how to raise money for it, Manski said.

Manksi said that in either of the two major redesign options for Hulls Cove, the access roads to Route 3 would be reconfigured and new buildings would be constructed to house a visitors center and the park’s law enforcement, administration, interpretation and resource management divisions. All new buildings would be built at roughly the same elevation as the existing parking lot in Hulls Cove, he said.

In other business, Acadia Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock told the commission that the park is trying to get the word out that there will be several road improvement projects going on in the park this spring and summer, which could complicate vehicular traffic on some paved roads and recreational use of some carriage roads.

Six Island Explorer bus stops — at Bubble Pond, Bubble Rock, Parkman Mountain, Echo Lake, Acadia Mountain and the North Ridge Trail on Cadillac Mountain — will be substantially rebuilt, he said. The park hopes to award a contract for the work in March and to have much of it done by June, though the Echo Lake project likely will take all summer.

Bobinchock added that the park plans to resurface the Park Loop Road between mid-May and the end of June, and to rebuild carriage roads near Day Mountain, Wildwood Stables and Jordan Pond House. The park also expects to rebuild six small bridges on Stanley Brook Road near the Mount Desert village of Seal Harbor between mid-August and sometime in September.

All the projects “will make life a little challenging at Acadia National Park,” Bobinchock said.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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