ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Whether or not a bridge over Duck Brook might double as a hibernaculum could affect a planned maintenance project for the picturesque tall span.
The bridge, built in 1929, is hollow and has been known to be a home for bats that hibernate through the winter, according to park officials. The three-span bridge is about 200 feet long and 90 feet above the brook that runs underneath and into Frenchman Bay.
Acadia officials told the park’s citizen advisory commission Monday that it plans to do re-pointing work this year on the masonry bridge, but it first has to determine whether any protected bat species might be living inside the structure. According to Rebecca Cole-Will, resource management chief for the park, the bridge was constructed with vents and a water drainage system that make it possible for bats and other small creatures to crawl inside.
In the past decade, bats have died by the millions in the United States because of an illness known as white-nose syndrome, which causes a white fungus to grow on their snouts and leads to dehydration, malnourishment, then death.
There have been signs of improvement this past year among U.S. bat populations in resisting the illness, including several promising field-tested treatments, but many species of bat remain protected under federal law because of the devastation wrought by the disease.
Acadia officials say they want to do what they can to protect their bats from harm in order to preserve the ecological balance of the park’s resident species.
“Bats are important because they play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and are tremendously important in managing mosquitoes and other biting insects,” park officials have said.
Deputy Superintendent Make Madell, speaking to the advisory commission, said the park is required to consider the environmental impact of the bridge project but that Acadia officials don’t think any bats would be adversely affected by the work.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that won’t sidetrack the project, but stay tuned,” he said.
In other planned work projects, Acadia intends to upgrade two of its wastewater treatment systems — one at Sieur de Mont Springs and the other at Seawall Campground — both of which will take place after Labor Day.
The project at Sieur de Mont Springs will involve disconnecting from the existing septic system and installing a new line to tie into Bar Harbor’s municipal wastewater treatment facility. The existing standalone wastewater system at Seawall will be replaced with a new standalone system.
Seawall Campground, which usually stays open each year past Labor Day, will be closed for the sewer upgrade project, Madell said. The park’s Blackwoods Campground, which usually closes after Labor Day, will stay open into the fall to make up for Seawall Campground closing early, he added.