Having lost more than a month of work due to the federal government shutdown, officials at Acadia National Park are scrambling to get ready for the 2019 season.
They are behind schedule in hiring more than 100 seasonal employees — a process that typically takes 90 days — who are key to making sure all the park’s facilities are open by mid-April.
But as they are working to make up for lost time, they are trying not to be distracted by the chance that much of federal government could cease operating again in 10 days. The 35-day shutdown ended Jan. 26 but only with a temporary agreement that provides funding for full federal operations through Feb. 15.
“We are very concerned about our seasonal hirings,” Kevin Schneider, Acadia’s superintendent, told the park’s advisory commission on Monday. He said he has authorized supervisors to work overtime on weekends to try to make headway in lining up employees for the coming tourist season, which usually kicks into gear in late May.
“Ten percent of the year is how much 35 days represents,” Schneider said of lost time.
Christie Anastasia, spokeswoman for the park, said only 10 regular work days remained (including Monday, Feb. 4) before the government could shut down again over the lack of funding for a wall President Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. That potential interruption has added urgency to the park’s hiring process.
“We’re all kind of holding our breath,” she said.
David MacDonald, president of Friends of Acadia, said that the effects of the shutdown go well beyond the hiring of seasonal employees. Parts of the park’s long-term mission that include land conservation, historical preservation and youth engagement also have taken a hit due to the shutdown, he said.
Acadia, where visitation is low in winter, did not have pressing problems like other national parks in the West during the shutdown, but much of its mission requires planning ahead to manage issues such as transportation, climate change and deferred maintenance, he said. The dozen or so park employees who were not furloughed but had to work without pay had daily maintenance tasks and safety checks to handle, preventing any kind of long-term planning, he said.
“These guys are working on issues that are meant to be benefiting future generations, [and] here they are having to plan on a week or 10-day basis,” MacDonald said. “It’s contradictory to what their mission is and what they are charged to do.”
No matter how much Friends of Acadia or other volunteers can help with some tasks, he said, the volatility and uncertainty associated with federal shutdowns undermines that long-term mission.
“It’s bad enough when you go from a continuing resolution to a continuing resolution,” MacDonald said. “Now we’re going from a shutdown to a shutdown. This [latest] shutdown has undermined [the park’s mission] in a big way.”