Bar Harbor leaders oppose a federal proposal to create peak-season entrance fees at 17 national parks, including Acadia.
The town council agreed earlier this week to sign a proposed congressional resolve that calls upon Congress to create “reliable, predictable” revenue and fix the national park system’s $11.33 billion maintenance backlog.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has proposed creating a new set of visitor-pass fees at the 17 parks to address the backlog. The new fee structure would raise park revenue by $70 million annually, he said.
The steepest would increase Acadia National Park‘s weekly vehicle pass from $25 to $70 between June 1 and Oct. 31.
Councilors Gary Friedmann and Peter St. Germain favored the resolve. They said Zinke’s proposal might alienate Mainers who visit Acadia for only a few days a year.
Councilor Matthew Hochman said he would rather see the park service offset the backlog with one- or three-day passes.
Kathie Summers-Grice, a consultant hired by Pew Charitable Trusts, the environmental group pushing the resolve, said those passes and better visitor-tracking technology could improve revenues without Zinke’s fees.
The backlog has long been a political football between federal government supporters and foes. Summers-Grice echoed supporters’ arguments by saying that it is rooted in Congress’ failure to adequately fund major infrastructure improvements at national parks since 1966. Congress has underfunded national parks by $350 millon to $500 million over the last decade, Summers-Grice said.
Others maintain that the backlog is caused by mismanagement.
Zinke’s plan would start in 2018 and set peak season entrance fees at $70 per private, non-commercial vehicle, $50 per motorcycle and $30 per person on bike or foot for seven days during peak season, officials have said.
Acadia would maintain its current weekly rates — $25 for per private, non-commercial vehicle, $20 per motorcycle and $12 per person on bike or foot — during off-peak times.
Acadia currently charges $50 for a 12-month pass. The new proposal would raise that to $75 annually.
Acadia’s maintenance backlog would cost roughly $71 million to fix, Acadia officials have said.
By signing the resolve, Bar Harbor joins 125 communities nationwide calling upon the federal government to establish revenue streams that address the maintenance backlog in a way that is more fair than Zinke’s proposal, Summers-Grice said.
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Correction: A previous version of this story stated that the 125 communities opposed Zinke's rate hike.