People from around the world visit Down East Maine and its crown jewel destination, Acadia National Park, each year. In fact, more than 3 million visitors each year come to Acadia, generating more than $270 million in local investment for our economy and helping to sustain more than 4,000 jobs.

The Cadmus Group recently released a report commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts detailing the impact that infrastructure restoration and maintenance can have in creating jobs in the local economy. The study not only provides a glimpse into some of the positive impacts that funding initiatives to address the backlog at our national parks can have on our local economies, but also renews the opportunity to discuss the critical issue of deferred maintenance.

For the past 100 years, Acadia National Park has been an economic engine that’s led to the growth and sustainability of Bar Harbor, Mount Desert Island, the Down East Acadia region and, in fact, the entire state of Maine. Over the last decade, national park budgets have seen a steady decline in funding, and currently suffer from an annual operations shortfall of more than $500 million. The National Park Service budget for construction and maintenance is only half of the amount necessary to maintain the parks and restore aging infrastructures. It is estimated that these repairs would cost a total of $11 billion — of which $2 billion is needed in the Northeast and $71 million is needed right here at Acadia.

While the report underscores the economic impact of funding efforts to mitigate the backlog, it is equally critical that we discuss how to fund the deferred maintenance, as well as how to provide stable maintenance funding moving forward — neither of which is addressed in the Cadmus Group report.

It is important to note that the backlog is not a singular issue, and therefore should not be addressed simplistically, as the administration has currently proposed, by dramatically increasing a few fees to the parks.

To date, there have been a number of viable options studied that would sufficiently address both the backlog and future funding. For example, urging parks that are authorized to increase entry fees under the current four-tier system to do so by offering daily-fee passes and three-day passes to go along with a weekly pass. Entry fees for commercial vehicles also need to be addressed — they have remained the same since the 1960s — but not by boosting these fees by more than 600 percent.


There are technology upgrades and applications that also can be implemented, as well as continuing to encourage public-private partnerships that further enhance the park’s ability to restore and protect its resources.

Lastly, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King have sponsored the National Park Service Legacy Act, which would provide stable funding moving forward for parks to address their maintenance needs.

These are measured, practical solutions to a complex problem that will not substantially alter or discourage visitors from continuing to make our national parks the top travel destinations in America.

As the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, we applaud all of the efforts previously undertaken to shed light on the growing need to address infrastructure maintenance at the parks, including Acadia. We believe it is necessary to preserve the crumbling infrastructure, not strictly from an economic argument, but from a cultural perspective as well. National parks were established to keep these one-of-a-kind resources pristine for all of us to enjoy.

We are fortunate to live and work in the shadow of Acadia, and we are committed to ensuring that it continues to be an economic and natural resource for generations to come. The Pew/Cadmus report merely provides yet another reason for us to advocate that Congress provide stable funding that addresses the maintenance backlog at our parks. We must ask the administration to take a further look at all the options available and come back with a more measured approach to increasing revenues that will continue to enable future generations the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate for the next 100 years what we all have for the last century.

Martha Searchfield is executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

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