WINTER HARBOR — Interior Secretary Deb Haaland detailed a host of improvements and investments at Maine’s only national park during a visit to the state on Friday.

Haaland touted the improvements on a day she toured Acadia National Park, one of the biggest nature tourism drivers in the state. The investments in the park include $7.6 million in Great American Outdoors Act funding to rehabilitate water systems in Acadia’s Schoodic District, which she said are beyond their useful lives.

The proposed 2022 federal budget also includes a $1.3 million funding boost for natural resources stewardship and conservation at the park, the Interior Department said. That would help fund additional staff at the park.

Another piece of the budget proposal would provide $200,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the park, the department said. That would help acquire land that could be used as a transit hub and parking for access to the Mount Desert Island lighthouse.

“Acadia National Park is a huge driver of Maine’s economy, and we are committed to making much-needed investments to conserve, protect and support these special places while economically empowering local businesses and communities,” Haaland said.

Haaland, who is the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history, also spent part of her two-day trip meeting with leaders from the Wabanaki tribes in Maine. The department said Haaland met with the tribal leaders about protecting their health and natural and cultural resources.

She also met with members of Maine’s congressional delegation and Gov. Janet Mills during her visit. The members held a brief public meeting with Haaland at Schoodic Institute in Winter Harbor. Sen. Susan Collins said the Great American Outdoors Act will “make a real difference in attacking the backlog in deferred maintenance at our national parks.”

Outdoor tourism has become even more important to Maine during the coronavirus pandemic, Mills said.

“We value the outdoors here in Maine. It is our biggest asset, in addition to the asset we have in our people,” Mills said. “We discovered that more cogently in this past year when our state parks were booked up.”

The Interior Department said the National Park Service is also working on improvements for visitors of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was created in 2016.

The 2022 budget proposal includes $675,000 to expand visitor services and resource management at the northern Maine monument, the department said. A new visitor center is expected to open at the monument this year.


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