October 19, 2019
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Acadia has a $65M list of maintenance projects, but not enough funds to pay for them

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Trail crew workers Chris Fabian (facing camera) and Chris Barter pull a suspended rock into place at the lower end of the Kurt Diederich's Climb trail near The Tarn pond on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Nearly a half-mile of the historic trail is being rebuilt this summer, but still Acadia has more than $65 million worth of deferred maintenance projects, park officials said. Congress is considering a proposal to increase funding for more than $11 billion in overdue projects at National Park Service properties nationwide.

The estimate for addressing all of Acadia’s maintenance needs, which park officials say make up a list of hundreds of deferred projects, has grown by roughly $6 million since last summer.

According to park officials, the current cost estimate for addressing all of Acadia’s infrastructure needs is $65.8 million. Last summer, when Acadia officials said they had a list of maintenance projects more than 350 items long, the total estimated price tag was $59.8 million.

The lack of adequate funding for maintaining or making improvements to Acadia’s infrastructure has been a point of concern for park supporters and advocates who say that the deteriorating conditions of the park’s buildings and roadways could hurt the area’s economy, which is heavily reliant on the millions of tourists who visit Acadia and the surrounding communities on Mount Desert Island every summer. If the park starts to look shabby, or if services suffer, fewer people could come to visit, they said.

In 2018, Acadia had an all-time annual high of 3.53 million visits which, according to the National Park Service, generated an estimated $387 million in visitor spending in the towns surrounding the park. The park’s annual visitation estimates have risen every year for the past five years and, over that time, have increased by a total of more than 1 million visits.

The park service has said that, nationwide, there is more than $11 billion worth of overdue projects to maintain park service facilities and infrastructure.

Two companion bills have been submitted in Congress to provide additional funding to address the backlog, one in the House and one in the Senate. On Wednesday, Rep. Jared Golden visited Acadia to meet with park officials and to get a firsthand look at some work being done to rehabilitate the historic Kurt Diederich’s Climb trail on the lower slopes of Dorr Mountain.

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Golden, like the rest of Maine’s congressional delegation, has signed on in support of the bills. If Congress approves the additional funding, it would take care of most of the overdue work at park service properties throughout the country over the next five years, said Golden, a Democrat representing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.

The cost estimate for addressing all of Acadia’s identified infrastructure needs changes from one year to the next, depending on what work gets done, what projects are added to the list, and the prevailing prices for labor and materials. For instance, in 2017 it was $71 million, and in 2015 it was $68.3 million.

Last September, concerns about the backlog and the impact it could have on the park and the MDI area’s growing tourism industry drew independent Sen. Angus King and Golden’s predecessor, Republican Bruce Poliquin, to the park to highlight the issue.

 



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