ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — This year is shaping up to be a big year for Maine’s only national park, with Acadia hitting a 20-year high of 2.8 million visits last year and gearing up to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016.
But park officials on Tuesday released an even bigger number, one that may not inspire a celebratory mood. Budgetary shortfalls, they said, have created a backlog of $68.3 million worth of overdue maintenance projects on park facilities.
Overall, similar shortages have resulted in $11.9 billion worth of deferred maintenance throughout the National Park Service system.
In separate prepared statements released this week by Acadia and by the National Park Service, officials said Congress has increased the service’s maintenance budget overall from the 2015 fiscal year, including $90 million more for non-transportation projects and $28 million for transportation-related items.
“The funds Congress provided for fiscal year 2016 will help us as we move toward the goal of restoring our highest priority non-transportation assets to good condition,” Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in the park’s release. “With the passage of the new highway bill, we also look forward to having resources to help address the growing needs of the Island Explorer bus system, which serves our gateway communities, as well as the park.”
The $68.3 million maintenance backlog for Acadia includes approximate figures of:
— $29 million for paved roads.
— $11.4 million for unpaved roads.
— $10.1 million for trails.
— $8.8 million for buildings.
— $1.9 million for wastewater systems.
— $1 million for housing.
— $858,000 for water systems.
— $165,000 for campgrounds.
— $5 million for other assorted facilities.
Among the infrastructure projects in Acadia that are overdue are repairs to Duck Brook Road, part of which has been closed to vehicular traffic since the spring of 2012, when a section of retaining wall that supported the road collapsed down a steep slope.
Out of safety concerns, the park immediately closed that section of the road to motor vehicles. In order to save money and to improve nonmotorized access between downtown Bar Harbor and the park’s carriage road network, the park stabilized the slope and decided to permanently make that section of road open only to pedestrians and bicyclists. Park officials say they still hope to use maintenance funds to repave the part of the road that is open to car traffic.
In the National Park Service statement, Director Jonathan Jarvis said the increased funds this year from Congress are welcome and should help end the growth in deferred maintenance cost estimates. Eventually, the park service hopes to have enough to keep up with its annual maintenance responsibilities, he said.
“We have a lot yet to do but I think everything is moving in the right direction,” Jarvis said in the statement. “Congress has pitched in with base funding and with additional funds for the Centennial Challenge — a program that enables us to leverage private and nonprofit partner contributions to complete important projects that improve visitor services in parks.”
Jarvis added that Congress could provide more funding through the proposed Centennial Act, including short-term mandatory appropriations.
More specific information about deferred maintenance at national parks can be found online at nps.gov/subjects/plandesignconstruct/defermain.htm.