A nonprofit organization has struck a deal with federal officials that will allow volunteers to resume grooming Acadia National Park’s carriage road trails for skiers, which they had been barred from doing during the partial government shutdown.

The agreement between Friends of Acadia and the National Park Service could come just in time for a potentially significant snow dump expected across Maine this weekend. In addition to allowing trails to be groomed for cross-country skiing, the National Park Service is also looking to tap into entrance fees to allow furloughed Acadia maintenance crews to plow sections of road normally kept open during winter.

Like all national parks, Acadia has remained accessible to the public but has lacked any services – such as restrooms, trash removal or plowing – since the government shutdown began Dec. 22. Park rangers and a handful of other so-called “essential” park employees continue to work but are doing so without pay.

The partial shutdown also has prohibited most volunteers from working in national parks.

Friends of Acadia said the agreement will allow volunteers of the Acadia Winter Trails Association to groom 30 miles of carriage roads for 90 days. Grooming will focus on areas traditionally maintained for winter access, including the carriage roads around Eagle Lake, Aunt Betty Pond, Witch Hole, Upper Hadlock Pond, Brown Mountain, the Amphitheater Loop and the Around Mountain area.

The organization has posted additional information on its Facebook page.

“We heard from a lot of community members who were surprised that the shutdown would also preclude volunteerism,” David MacDonald, president and CEO of the nonprofit Friends of Acadia, said in a statement. “FOA appreciates the efforts of Acadia National Park to pursue this agreement, and we are pleased that our dedicated volunteers will now be able to resume providing this service to the park and its winter visitors.”

Acadia National Park draws far fewer visitors – and offers fewer services – during winter, so the shutdown has had less impact on Acadia than on other national parks. But Acadia’s carriage roads draw sizable numbers of cross-country skiers when there is enough snow to groom the trails, and non-groomed trails and the Park Loop Road are used by snowshoe walkers, fat-tire bikers and other visitors.

While most of Park Loop Road is closed to vehicle traffic in winter, the park’s maintenance crews traditionally plow a one-way section of Ocean Drive to allow visitors to drive to the Sand Beach/Thunder Hole area. That stretch has been closed to traffic several times since the shutdown began, however, because crews have been prohibited from plowing.

Friends of Acadia officials suggested those operations could resume soon.

“Park officials are hopeful that maintenance crews will be able to perform limited winter snow removal operations, including the plowing of Ocean Drive and trailhead parking areas, after requesting guidance from Washington about the use of entrance fees to fund the work,” the organization said in a news release.

The track and intensity of this weekend’s storm was still changing Thursday, but forecasters say coastal areas of Maine could receive 12 to 18 inches of snow by Sunday night.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KevinMillerPPH

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