Maine Voices: Acadia celebrates landmark investment in the great outdoors – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel | Gmx Pharm

Next Thursday marks the third anniversary of a landmark non-partisan nature conservation law that fulfills urgently needed measures Maintaining critical facilities and infrastructure in our national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, state forests and recreation areas – all of which generate billions of dollars in private sector economic activity.

The Great American Outdoors Act, passed by Congress in 2020, is the largest single public land investment in US history. It directs up to $1.9 billion each year for five years into the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to address the backlog of infrastructure repair and maintenance projects on our public lands, and it also invests in Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

Congress should remain proud of this historic investment in protecting and preserving our national parks and recreation areas. The Great American Outdoors Act, now halfway through its five-year implementation period, has helped the National Park Service attend to significant infrastructure projects, including major repairs to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the replacement or upgrade of water and wastewater treatment systems in the area Grand Canyon and Yellowstone to name a few.

A line of hikers follow the Beehive Trail near Sand Beach in Acadia National Park in 2013. The park has received more than $7.5 million in Great American Outdoors Act funding to rehabilitate the water and sewage systems at Schoodic Point and more than $26 million to replace the maintenance facility at park headquarters . Michael G. Seamans/Morning Watchman, file

Acadia National Park has also benefited from this funding. Since the investment began, Acadia has received more than $7.5 million in funding to rehabilitate the water and wastewater systems at Schoodic Point and more than $26 million to replace the maintenance facility at the park’s headquarters – a facility woefully inadequate as a hub for all carpentry, auto repair, welding, plumbing, and electrical work in Acadia National Park, let alone the planning, design, and supervision of all infrastructure projects. The existing maintenance building has a structural crack running the full length and a single bathroom for 60 year-round and seasonal employees. Park maintenance teams found that maintaining the current structure would be more costly than replacing it.

Acadia National Park’s needs don’t end there. Acadia maintains an estimated $1 billion in infrastructure: 214 buildings, 153 miles of trails, 71 residential units, six campgrounds, 82 miles of dirt roads (including historic carriage roads), 17 water systems, and 18 sewer systems. That’s a huge burden to maintain while using taxpayers’ money efficiently and respectfully. Future Great American Outdoors Act projects could include rehabilitation of the former naval quarters at the Schoodic Education and Research Center, repairs or replacement of the Jordan Pond House facilities, and repairs to the Bass Harbor Light.

While infrastructure projects like these may not excite park visitors, they are critical to ensuring both visitors and employees are safe and have an enjoyable experience while visiting our public lands.

Years of limited funding hampered the National Park Service’s ability to address park infrastructure. Friends of Acadia is grateful to Congress for recognizing the need and acting in 2020 with a significant investment in the National Park’s infrastructure.

My organization, Friends of Acadia, is excited to enhance this work through contributions from our foundations and donor funds to help preserve Acadia’s pathways and driveways, preserve historic buildings, and prepare for the impacts of climate change. But it will require continued and strengthened public-private partnership in the coming years.

Please join us to celebrate the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act on August 4th. Admission fees are waived in Acadia National Park and all areas administered by the Department of Interior. Also, thank the Maine Congressional delegation for helping pass this landmark law, and share with them the importance of continuing to make these significant investments to ensure that Acadia and other national parks are preserved for future generations.

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