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Sen. King "Cautiously Optimistic" on Funds to Fix Acadia Nat'l Park

Acadia National Park has the most visitors per square mile of any U.S. national park. (National Park Service)
Acadia National Park has the most visitors per square mile of any U.S. national park. (National Park Service)
July 11, 2018

MOUNT DESERT, Maine – Decades of deferred maintenance at Acadia and other national parks has been caused by a lack of funding nationwide. To address the need, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, joined Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Mark Warner, D-Va., to back the Restore Our Parks Act.

The bill, which gets a Senate subcommittee hearing this morning, would set up a federal fund to address the backlog of more than $11 billion in needed repairs. King said he's cautiously optimistic.

"This bill is a big deal. It's bipartisan - we believe we have the support of the administration - and it would immediately inject about $1.3 billion a year for three years into the parks," King said. "And then there's a funding stream thereafter, and it's not coming out of taxpayers' dollars."

The funding would come from royalties from the extraction of minerals on federal land. King said it's a nice symmetry, supporting public projects through proceeds from land the public owns.

While Acadia National Park is one of the most-visited national parks, it has suffered like other National Park Service sites from deferred maintenance for decades. Restrooms, trails, bridges and the popular carriage roads all are in dire need of upgrade and repair.

While the large crowds, particularly in the summer, boost the local economies of Bar Harbor and other nearby villages, the park struggles to keep up with crucial repair needs, which King said total $71 million.

"Acadia has 128 miles of paved and gravel roads, 44 bridges, 152 miles of trails and 620 campsites," King said, "and the problem is, the fees and appropriations to the parks just cover operations and not deferred maintenance."

King's hope, he said, is that "the stars are aligned and we're actually going to be able to solve a decades-old problem on a bipartisan basis."

A recent analysis commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that tackling the park maintenance backlog nationwide would support or create at least 110,000 jobs.

The text of the Restore Our Parks Act is online at scribd.com.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Linda Barr, Public News Service - ME