ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING
Acadia National Park Headquarters
Monday, February 06, 2017 1:00 P.M.
Jacqueline Johnston, Chair
Ken Cline, Member
Fred Ehrlenbach, Vice Chair
Ben Emory, Member
Carolyn Gothard, Member
Katherine Heidinger, Member
Matt Horton, Member
Dexter Lee, Member
Howie Motenko, Member
Stephen Shea, Member
Ken Smith, Member
Bruce Wiersma, Member
Ben Worcester, Member
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent, ANP
Michael Madell, Deputy Superintendent, ANP
John Kelly, Management Assistant, ANP
Stuart West, Chief Ranger, ANP
Keith Johnston, Chief of Facilities Management, ANP
Rebecca Cole-Will, Chief of Resource Management, ANP
David MacDonald, President & CEO, Friends of Acadia
Members of the Public
The Commission Chair called the meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, Monday, February 06th, 2017, to order. We ask all Advisory Commission members to please state your name when you propose or second a motion for recording in the minutes.
APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA No additional items to add. No comments. The agenda was accepted by Ben Worcester; seconded by Ken Smith; all approved.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES A motion was made by Fred Ehrlenbach to accept the minutes of the September 12, 2016, ANP Advisory Commission meeting; motion was seconded by Carolyn Gothard, and unanimously accepted.
Meetings on Schoodic Peninsula – Jacqueline Johnston
At the last Advisory Commission meeting in September, the full commission favored direct engagement with the community of Schoodic based on feedback from that meeting and I would like to report of those meetings. Superintendent Schneider and park staff, along with representatives of the Park Use Committee, participated in three different meetings; a public forum at Schoodic and meetings with selectman in Winter Harbor and Gouldsboro. In December, 2016, Jackie Johnston and Katherine Heidinger attended the selectman’s meetings at Winter Harbor; Jackie attended the meeting at Gouldsboro.
Superintendent Schneider and staff provided updated information and they addressed comments and concerns from Selectmen and citizens related to changes in the park and the Schoodic District. Both boards began with the transportation plan, the perception that decisions may have already been made in advance to public comments and concern the park might use a “cookie cutter approach”, based on MDI needs to resolve Schoodic traffic issues. Winter Harbor citizens expressed concern that a plan developed today may not be relevant by the time it is initiated. There was discussion on the stones that were placed in areas that was previously available for parking; creating a problem for citizens of both communities. Both towns, particularly Winter Harbor, sought some additional parking along the road. The park’s current intertidal zone policy solicited comments similar to those at the last commission meeting. The Gouldsboro board was confident that increased communication with the park, while working together with local resources, would be successful. Park fees for local residents were opposed by Winter Harbor Selectmen. Gouldsboro Selectmen had mixed views. Both boards were pleased these issues were being discussed at the December public forum which would allow more citizen dialogue.
The public forum was held in the Schoodic Institute auditorium on December 8 th with a large turnout, which included a good cross-section of residents from both peninsula towns. Citizens developed, and prioritized, their own agenda and the National Park Service staff addressed every single topic, which included park fees, available parking on the loop, transportation plan, use of the intertidal zone, educating and sharing park history, and others. It was evident by the change in comments from our last commission meeting that the park had been very effectively engaging with wormers and clammers, for example. The concept of capturing sustainable harvesting activity as a potential interpretive opportunity was introduced. After only one or two comments opposed to enforcing fees on Schoodic, the discussion took a turn to hearing citizens pitch ways for the park to increase opportunities to buy park passes at town events. Much of the dialogue was constructed regarding restoring and/or finding areas for vehicles to park on the loop road and it felt like the park was open to exploring some options that might provide some relief. There is still some ground to cover but it felt as though it was advancement in effective communication and relationship building. The Town Manager of Gouldsboro, and some of the attending citizens, relayed thanks the following week for a very upbeat and constructive forum. It allowed citizens to feel as though they were listened to. As new information is received that will influence park operations, this level of dialogue with the Schoodic community will be key to continuing to build this relationship.
Ben Emory – Reinforced Jackie’s report and complimented all park staff for an outstanding job making clear that they really are listening and want to do the best they can with the issues they were hearing about. The public was participating. It was a very positive meeting and everyone in the audience was making comments in a positive way. I thought it was an outstanding meeting. The park had clearly laid excellent groundwork.
Jackie Johnston – I agree and, also, with the respective town selectmen’s meetings, as well. The dialogue from the last commission meeting to the progress in educating the selectmen to the fuller citizen engagement showed progress each step of the way. People were a little more educated, they asked better questions, and there was a much more substantive dialogue. It was a tremendous amount of work and support and it paid off. And it was very apparent the dialogue continued between the meetings. Are there any other comments from the commission?
(There were no additional comments).
Kevin Schneider – We appreciate the feedback. It is an important conversation and we were happy to be able to do it and we hope to continue that level of dialogue with Schoodic Peninsular and other communities, as well. Thank you.
FACA Refresher – Mike Madell, Deputy Superintendent
Mike presented a FACA (Federal Advisory Committee Act) refresher training through a PowerPoint presentation. Some highlights included the law requires a charter of the commission and it needs to be updated every two years; the DFO (Designated Federal Official) is Kevin Schneider; the membership needs to be fairly balanced; all documents are public; hold open public meetings where the public is allowed to speak; meetings minutes are adopted; (PowerPoint Presentation Attachment 1).
The recommendation was made by the Advisory Commission to have FACA training when new ANP Advisory Commission members come onboard as well as a review of park operations as a board orientation.
Process for Election of Commission Officers – Carolyn Gothard
Per the by-laws, election of officers will be held in the spring. Nominations will open after the February 6 th meeting and close 30 days prior to the June 5th meeting. The positions open for nominations include Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary. Nominations need to be sent in by May 5th , 2017, to Callie Gothard.
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – Kevin Schneider
Visitation in 2016 was up 17 1/2% which is an additional ½ million people that visited Acadia National Park. It was a very busy year for us. The staff did a marvelous job operating the park this summer. With another half-million people coming to see us, it creates challenges. I am really proud of our crew in our centennial year. I think we did a great job of operating the park. We had to close Cadillac Mountain’s Summit Road on twelve occasions to inbound traffic because the congestion at the summit became so hard it was impossible to respond to an emergency up there. Essentially traffic gridlocked. It took 30-45 minutes just to circulate the summit area of Cadillac. We, also, had to close Ocean Drive two times this summer, which had not occurred in the last few years. There was only one or so occasion in our history where we had to close Ocean Drive. Traffic was literally backed up to, and beyond, the entrance station at Sand Beach. Those are frustrating moments for us. We don’t like to have to do that. But, when it gets to the point that it is so gridlocked that is just not safe, we have to make those difficult decisions. And that leads us to the transportation plan and the need for addressing these issues. It’s not a positive visitor experience when that kind of circumstance occurs. I was out working one of those closures with our field staff one day this summer and heard from some frustrated visitors. They could not park at Jordon Pond House and the road to Cadillac was closed and they asked for their money back. That was a disappointed visitor and we don’t like to see that. So the transportation plan is an important piece of trying to manage those visitation increases into the future.
Schoodic was up 30% in visitation. We saw a lot more people coming to Schoodic. The campground was full for much of the summer. It had an occupancy status that was basically full. Bicycle traffic was up 57% at Schoodic. More and more people are choosing to visit that location with their bicycles.
We are hoping to hire parking lot attendants for next summer; essentially hire seasonals to help us run our parking lots and help us troubleshoot problems before you get to the point of gridlock and areas having to close down. Housing is always a concern for us with our seasonal workforce. Anytime we add new seasonals, like the parking lot attendants, the first question asked is where are they going to live? The truth is we really don’t have a place for them to live so housing is something, in the long term we really want to try to address. We are convening and discussing with partners to find creative ways of tackling our own seasonal workforce housing issue. It is a problem that really affects everyone on this Island; housing is at a real premium. All employers on this island are struggling with housing issues. Paul Murphy, President and CEO of Downeast Transportation, was not able to hire as many bus drivers as he wanted to this past summer for the Island Explorer buses. This affects, not just the park, but our partners too. And if we can’t hire enough bus drivers, that is a concern for us as well.
When we close the Loop Road, the Island Explorer still travels, along with Olie’s Trolley, but it does get caught up in any congestion. We don’t make formalized forecasts for visitation. For 2017, it could be up or it could be a little less but we don’t know. I think the general trajectory of our visitation is increasing. The state has done a very good job of marketing Maine as a vacation destination and the public is responding to that. There are 80 million people that we are a day’s drive from. People are discovering their national parks. I think the centennial had an effect on this year’s visitation but there were visitors who showed up unaware of the centennial. They had not heard about it and they still came. I think the trajectory of our visitation is only going to increase if we look at the next five to ten year horizon.
There is a hiring freeze right now that we are within. It is based on an executive order from the president. As a branch of the federal government, we are subject to that executive order and hiring freeze. Some guidance that came up just in the last week from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) said the hiring freeze is not to effect seasonal employees. This would be the time of the year when we would normally be hiring our seasonal employees and those seasonals are crucial for us to operate Acadia National Park this summer. We cannot operate the park without our seasonal workforce. And so we just got guidance in the last week that should relieve the restriction for seasonal employees. We are still waiting for the approval as an agency to hire those seasonals. Part of that guidance requires the director of the National Park Service to notify the OPM the number of seasonal employees we are going to be hiring as an agency. We are in the process, I believe, of doing that. My hope is in the next week or so, we should be able to resume our normal hiring of seasonals. Now we still are prohibited from hiring permanent employees per this hiring freeze and we do have a number of very critical permanent vacancies here at Acadia; positions like our IT Specialist, our only permanent employee to troubleshoot our computer systems; we have a vacant NEPA Coordinator, who processes all of our environmental assessments, our projects which require screening for environmental impacts; our Concession Specialist position will become vacant in February which is the position that oversees our contract with Dawnland, which operates Jordon Pond House; we have a vacant Maintenance Supervisor position at Schoodic; Carriage Road Supervisor position which is vacant; and a Deputy Chief Ranger positon which is vacant. So we do have a number of vacant permanent positons. We have had a number of people leave early this past winter so it has created some vacant positions for us in our permanent workforce. If a 120 day hiring freeze is the expectation of the executive order, what will come after that still remains to be seen, so there is a little bit of uncertainty whether or not we start to get come flexibility or not.
So with that, I will hand it over to John Kelly to talk a little bit more about the transportation plan.
Transportation Plan Update – John Kelly, Management Assistant
The transportation plan is going to be on your agenda for a very long time. The transportation plan is seeking to address road and parking congestion by safe, high quality visitor experience and to protect park values and resources. The park kicked off the transportation plan in January, 2015. We initially started understanding what this is all about, what the scope was, and the process for doing the transportation plan. In the summer of 2015, we gathered ideas and public input, held public meetings, and collected comments. Between the fall 2015 and summer of 2016, we looked at the comments and collected data and we developed policies and strategies. We are still trying to collect current data as best we can as we form that plan. There was a full range of public comments/feedback so it was difficult to form these preliminary concepts.
We developed preliminary concepts; 4 for MDI and 2 for Schoodic. The preliminary concepts (alternatives) went out for a 45 day review, which was considered an extra step to get extra feedback and refine the ideas. We held a public meeting at the Peninsular School on Schoodic with about 100 people attending, and about 200 attending a public meeting at MDI High School. We also reached out online, through our newsletter and on our public comment website. In addition, we held individual meetings with stakeholders; we met with our concessioners, each of the town’s Selectboards, the Bar Harbor Town Council, and Gouldsboro and Winter Harbor. These meetings were after the formally period for comments closed but all the comments got into the record, which we used a few weeks ago at a three-day workshop, with the 20 member planning team, held at Oceanside with our support from the Washington office and some consultants
. At the Transportation Plan workshop, we look over the comments on these concepts. For MDI, there was a consensus we need to do something; for Schoodic it was a consensus not to do anything. We are still working these out and we have good reason to continue along Schoodic. That was the general gist. Across the board, we heard about biking, buses, both commercial and the Island Explorer, and private vehicles. Comments were equally broad and wide ranged. We came out with very solid information and were able to incorporate data on Cadillac from 2015. There was local concern from both MDI and Schoodic about how it would affect people who live in the area; the neighbors, people who have Acadia in their backyard.
The outcome of the workshop was that we refine the preliminary concepts into very rough alternatives. This process will continue to get public input and we will continue to meet with stakeholders and all the towns on a regular basis. By late 2017, we hope to have a draft set of alternatives and a draft environmental impact statement, which is a broad policy document that looks at the impact of natural, cultural and economic. A draft will go out for public comment. We are shooting to have a final decision by late 2018 in what is called a Record of Decision. But by the end of this year, we hope to have something go out to the public that is fairly well formulated so we can begin to move the alternatives forward to preferred alternatives and a final decision.
We collected a lot of new data for visitor use on Cadillac and this summer we hope to be doing that for Ocean Drive to help in understanding the whole Thunder Hole, Sand Beach, Ocean Drive corridor.
We will be having more discussions and we are getting into a more formal process. We need to be fair to all the constituent’s and interests out there. We will have distinct periods where we open the document to public comments, close that, and come back for the final. But to no surprise, the alternatives you are going to look at are at varying degrees of managing both commercial buses and private cars focused on the Park Loop Road and, also, we are developing site by site alternatives for places like Echo Lake beach or Seawall, which we know are going to be part of the puzzle. Once we know how to manage the Park Loop Road, there are going to be impacts beyond that that we are going to need to address.
Part of the impetus for the plan and the timing of it, besides the obvious issues, was we have projects going on, like the Acadia Gateway Center and the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor that we know what we do is going to affect those projects and the communities and vice versus. We want to continue to work with communities on those projects like the Acadia Gateway Center. Ideally what we want to have coming out of this transportation plan is an understanding of the function and use of that site so we can move into some future use and development of that site. The Acadia Gateway Center is incorporated into the transportation plan. So we will have the answer, along with the transportation plan.
We have the transportation website available for information or you can get on a mailing list to receive regular updates. The website is listed below:
The transportation planning team is primarily made up of 12-15 staff from the park, representing different divisions or programs, representatives to include key planners and visitor use management specialists from the Washington office and, by extension, the Northeast Regional Office. The Washington office has contracted outside consultants for professional outside expertise, and we work closely with Paul Murphy of Downeast Transportation who is tied to the Island Explorer. Of course, we have all the stake holders, concessioners, and operational partners, like Schoodic Institute, and so on.
We are talking managing rather than limiting visitation. Inevitably, strategies will be looked at in limitation. We hope to provide people information ahead of time so they can plan and get the experience they want at the time they want. A lot of this, which we really haven’t talked about directly, is about education and advanced planning, informing the public, and transitioning people to look ahead, knowing they may not get the parking space on the top of Cadillac at sunrise that they want. In some ways, there are limits but, hopefully, that opens doors, too.
We can take small steps even now to manage the traffic and congestion problem, which we are. Once the plan is finalized in late 2018, implementation will take some time. It will take technology, staff, funding, probably some physical changes, contracting, arrangements…all this will take some time. We also aren’t going to do something so sudden that it’s going to lose its effect. So again, we’ll go back to once we get all the pieces together for implementation, we are going to want to build this into working with the communities, the chambers, the state, and all the sources we have for getting the word out that there may be a new way of visiting Acadia in the future. I can’t give you an exact timeframe for rollout. It could be the early years or it might be out five or ten years. But the plan is really looking even beyond that. We are looking at a generation of ways to visit Acadia. Again, it is hard to get at what is too many people, if we can direct them to different place at different times and handle it in a different way. We are not going to come out and say only X number of people are allowed in this place at a time or over the summer. It’s going to be, hopefully, a better way of managing that demand.
Stuart West - We have been managing buses for four years; working with the land excursion companies. Individual companies are only two buses are allowed on Cadillac at a time, which is a drastic change from four years ago when we had seventeen buses up there at once. We work with the companies to ensure they only have two buses and, if they have more than two buses, we cite them. It is up to the companies to manage how they rotate the buses go up Cadillac. It is working to an extent. There is supply and demand as you can imagine, which alters the equation, and there are other things outside of their control they have to manage. This is why we gave them that ability. There can be a delay at customs; the weather can be a delay, fog, where people may decide they don’t want to go on Cadillac at all. All those variables mixed in. Is it a nice day after several rain days? That really influences the visitation on Cadillac. With all those things combined means there has to be a lot of flexibility in the system and we try to give them the flexibility so they can manage themselves knowing they can’t exceed those certain numbers.
Matt Horton – Overnight parking and shuttling people in can go a long way. It seems to me it is the vehicles, not the people. I hope the plan will consider more parking spots, greater transportation avenues (like parking in Trenton and shuttling) and making sure you manage the buses, which sounds like you already are.
John Kelly – The vehicles are the obvious issue and parking congestion is easily recognized, but we are not disregarding numbers because there is still the experience when people are at a certain location and we have to look at both sides in that the ability of transit or concessions to bring larger numbers of people and not have a vehicle issue is still in the mix of the equation. So, I agree with you, but we are not going to disregard that number if it has an effect on people’s visitor experience or safety at a location like the top of Cadillac or Thunder Hole. The definition for Visitor Experience is terminology we use. It’s about the guest or tourist experience. We want them to come here, have a really great time, not get injured, learn about the park and take something away. It’s about what they take away and they remember and tell other people about their experience. It’s about a change in their behavior or where they live or are from that has been affected by their park experience. We do visitor surveys every year so we get a sense of whether people have a good experience or not. Safety is not objective. We know the numbers of injuries and accidents and we always want to reduce those numbers. To a certain degree, it is an art but there are ways to look at it more quantifiably. We collect data and we use the numbers that we have. We need to go into details about data and data modeling. Charlie Jacobi will come back at the next meeting and talk about Visitor Use Management 101.
Kevin Schneider – The transportation plan is an important project for Acadia National Park and it is a long-term process. We hope to have a decision in late 2018. But please recognize we have not made any decisions yet. We are still very much in the process. We still haven’t fleshed out our alternatives. We are doing that as we speak and will be doing it over the coming months. Once we do that, we start to look at what the environmental impacts of those alternatives are. And then we reach this draft EIS, which we hope to have out in late 2017 and there will be more public comments on that. So please stay tuned but, also, please recognize we have not made any decisions yet.
Boundary Legislation – Kevin Schneider, Superintendent
The next thing we would like to talk about is the legislation in your packets which was introduced by Senator King and Congressman Poliquin last week. That builds on the legislation which was introduced at last session of Congress by Senator King and Congressman Poliquin. It was established as a result of the Schoodic acquisition and concern about the Schoodic acquisition and it addresses those issues. It addresses some issues with Tremont School, for example. It authorizes the permanent extension of this advisory commission. It addresses commercial fishing. It has issues related to a small parcel in Bar Harbor that was added to this version, which was recently introduced, along with funding for the waste transfer facility in Bar Harbor. So it is a broad package. I certainly don’t want to speak for the delegation or their staff but I really do appreciate the cooperation of the delegation. They have been very diligent with this legislation and they have also been really open to ideas and suggestions for the National Park Service and from the communities so I really appreciate their diligence in trying to push this bill forward. We have just begun to look at it. We did work with them a little bit over the last few months in terms of the language in the bill and we’re digesting it. We do not have an official position on the legislation yet. That happens at a level above mine in Washington, DC, within the administration and the Department of the Interior. But it is out and I don’t know that it is scheduled for a hearing yet but I assume it would be soon. I am happy to address any questions to the best of my ability that you may have about it. I don’t know if we have anyone here today from the delegation staff if they want to say a thing or two about it but I am not seeing anyone.
Intertidal Zone Dialogue – Rebecca Cole-Will, Chief of Resource Management
This has been a process of doing conservation planning and it involved a lot of stakeholders in the discussion. We actually had started this work before the legislation came up for discussion and the two are on parallel tracks and do intersect in terms of thinking about the intertidal zone and what kinds of uses are appropriate and traditional. This is a larger issue for us. We are a park with a large intertidal boundary and the resources of that area are one of concern. It is larger than harvesting. It has a lot to do with the health and resiliency of the intertidal zone and with whom we should be working with to understand the ongoing conservation and protection of the intertidal zone as part of the resources of the park. So this was a planning effort we have been doing related to conservation of all resources in the park. The intertidal zone is one conservation target. We started this in the fall by pulling together a team of stakeholders, park staff, research scientists, stakeholders from a variety of different state and federal agencies including BMR and some of the local shellfish resource committees, wormers; folks who know what is going on in, and understand, the intertidal zone. We met for a couple of days to talk about what the issues are, what ideas we can work on together in a collaborative way to understand the resource issues, and to develop strategies to start addressing them. We came up with four management strategies that we intend to continue to talk about and refine in terms of some planning we can do as resource managers.
Of course, there is the need to publically communicate the value of the intertidal zone and its importance to all the people of the State of Maine and park visitors and it is a basic resource that is integral to what Acadia National Park is. Everyone we are working with, from clammers and wormers to visitors to scientists and others have said this is a really valuable resource and we all need to work together to protect it.
Ben Emory – Just a comment, given that almost all of the park deeds go to the low water mark which means resources in the intertidal zone are on park property. That is an important factor. Has there been discussion about the part of the intertidal zone on the Schoodic Peninsula which was under navy management and it being particularly pristine and people feel it should be maintained for research? Could you collaborate on that?
Because that area had been closed for so many years to any kind of use, it has been identified as one of the most pristine in the State of Maine because it hasn’t been trampled and there is less activity there; so research scientists have said that is a crucial area to protect. Those are the kinds of issues we are looking at in terms of identifying those resources; what is going on there and how to protect them. It is an amazingly pristine resource area.
Kevin Schneider – We haven’t necessarily asked the Solicitor for a formal opinion. We asked the solicitor’s office to research the deeds and the outcome of that deed research does indicate that we own to the low water mark on a vast majority of the park’s deeds. Of course, since we own to the low water mark, that is where the provisions of the CFR apply and that is what brought us into this conflict with commercial harvesting of clams and worms, which really launched these kinds of issues. We do own to the low water mark by and large throughout Acadia National Park. There are a few instances where we do not. So the provisions of the CFR apply by and large throughout the park.
Jackie Johnston - It was agreed on the following position to be shared with Park Service and Elected Officials:
1. Permitted commercial harvesting of sea creatures should be limited to traditional manual methods using only hand implements traditionally used. There should be no mechanical harvesting permitted.
2. No harvesting of plants, including seaweed, should be permitted. As written, the bills permit harvesting of “marine organisms” as defined in Maine Revised Statutes, and that definition includes plants and, thus, for the purposes of these bills is too broad.
3. No aquaculture should be permitted in the intertidal zone areas owned by Acadia National Park.
The Commission favors continued commercial harvesting of clams, worms, and periwinkles by traditional means in the intertidal zone lands owned by Acadia National Park, and that seems consistent with the goals of Section 8 of the bills as stated by Senator King and Representative Poliquin, who have been quoted in local newspapers. The language in the bills, however, is too broad and goes beyond those goals. It would authorize harvesting of seaweed, use of mechanical harvesters, and aquaculture, none of which are traditional or being currently undertaken at Acadia National Park.
After extensive discussion of the legislation and the intertidal zone by the A.N.P. Advisory Commission, the commission felt the legislation is too broad and needs to be clearly defined. A motion was made authorizing Jackie Johnston to draft a letter to submit to the Congressional Delegation, copied to the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the National Park Service, with recommendations of ANP Advisory Commission to include ‘harvesting limited to traditional, historic uses; prohibiting commercial harvesting to include rockweed and aquaculture; and to prohibit mechanical harvesters on the coast of Acadia National Park’ and they would like to advise the wording to include ‘traditional means and methods’. The ANP Advisory Commission would like the Congressional Delegation to look at their recommendations and see if they can accommodate them.Motion was made by Ben (Lee) Worcester, seconded by Ben Emory, all approved, no opposed; pending everyone on the commission will see a copy of the letter before sending it out, and a copy of the letter to be sent to the Secretary of the Interior and the Director for the National Park Service.
Steve Smith, Otter Creek, Public – The Department of Marine Resources has jurisdiction over these waters right now and I think they do a good job managing the whole thing. I think the park and this Advisory Commission keep their nose out of it completely. They already have their foot in the door and it’s been my experience when they get their foot in the door, the park conjures, like a cancer. It just grows out of control. We don’t need big brother getting involved in this at all. The Department of Marine Resources does a good job. I pick up a little bit of seaweed once in a while to put on my lobsters when I take them up to keep them cool in the summertime. Once they get their foot in the door, I won’t even be able to do that. You watch. It never stops.
Jackie Johnston – I do appreciate your comments but we are trying to engage with all stakeholders. Thank you.
Construction Updates – Keith Johnston, Chief of Facilities Management (See Construction Updates 2017 Attached)
There are two major construction projects that have been ongoing and we plan to wrap up by May 1st; the Sieur de Monts sewage system tied into the system of Bar Harbor and the rehabilitation of the Seawall sewage system. Looking ahead for the year, we will be tackling the repaving of several parking lots; Cadillac Mountain and the Sieur de Mont parking area. There are multiple lots to include Cadillac, Visitor Center, Tarn parking area, Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, Norumbega, Schooner Head, and Stanley Brook Road. The job of repairing a retaining wall on the Carriage Road between Jordon Pond House and Wildwood Stables fell through last year. We hope to get that done this year, starting after August 1st. In conjunction with that, we will be resurfacing several miles of Carriage Roads in the Jordon Pond House area. We will be working on the interior of Rockefeller Hall repairing the sewage system. Isle au Haut pier needs to be rebuilt in-place and hope to have it done by June 15th of this year. The Jordon Pond House lawn rehabilitation project will kick off this fall and it will have impacts with our concessioners so we are working closely with them. The job is to get the landscape to stop the rainwater from running into the building and get it to run away from it. There will be enhancement to the landscape there. The historic Seawall Ranger Station is the check-in station for the campground and we will rehabilitate the structure this fall. It has seen no rehabilitation in fifty years. The 50,000 gallon Blackwoods Campground Water Storage Tank, which hides in the woods, sprung a leak in the bottom last year and it will be fixed. This fall, Wildwood Stables will be rehabilitating the 9-10 equestrian visitor campground area.
Looking ahead, we hope to attack some design efforts to include the Schoodic power line to that runs down to the peninsula. It was designed in the 1940s, is a flue for woodpeckers and regularly blows over every year in the winter. We will be looking at possibilities which include a whole range of options. We will be working on that through in-house committees and researching what our options might be. We are looking at our own visitor centers and a whole list of issues, including congestion inside the building. We are looking at adapting the space and the theater and how people move throughout the building. Probably a new facility if out several years on the horizon and we have to do something now. And Isle au Haut Road is going to get some work done, as well, over the next two years.
Just to have on your radar, we are working close with the State of Maine and the Town of Bar Harbor for utilizing the Paradise Hill Road as a detour once Route 3 gets underway in that area so we can help alleviate traffic congestion and, also, that road in cooperation with multiple entities will be open in the wintertime for northbound traffic while they are doing the work. That looks like 2017-18 but it may also be 2018-19. We are working closely with them and hoping to help with the congestion there.
Park Use Jackie Johnston:
Jackie presented their results of the public meetings under Old Business – Public Meetings of Schoodic Peninsula. We also received information on, and discussed the historic significance of, the Duck Brook Motor Road Bridge and challenges to significant modifications to the surrounding growth/trees given its proximity to the waterway.
Science & Education – Callie Gothard:
A small group met for the first time in two years. We reviewed what their function is; how we can be more involved; and we agreed to meet on a regular basis. We appreciate the updates on Schoodic and we would like to be involved more directly.
Land: No Report
FRIENDS of ACADIA UPDATE – David MacDonald, President & CEO
I’m not a football fan but I know why the Patriots won. It’s because they are masters at adaptive management, it’s a resilient team, and there are comparisons to the park. In this time when everything is changing so much, I want to commend Kevin and his team, the Commission, Friends of Acadia, the Chamber, all the partners, are part of managing this park in a way that has got to be ever-changing. We just talked about the hiring freeze, visitation is going through the roof, the climate is changing; and I think for a lot of years, and I think Becky talked about this better than I do; the park managed this park as if it were a static resource. That doesn’t work anymore. We are really lucky for having a staff that is doing this in a number of different ways. I think the good turnout at this meeting today is part of that. And I just want to pledge Friends of Acadia will be part of that going forward. There has been a lot of talk about the Centennial and how great it was. That is over now but the work is only more challenging going forward. So just a couple of thoughts; the four areas where we are focused the most are:
So this coming year, our budget for 2017 involves more grants, more dollars, to the park than ever before. We hope it is going to involve more volunteerism, more business involvement, and more citizen involvement in the park than ever before. We have big challenges coming our way for Acadia and Friends of Acadia certainly wants to be a resource in many ways. I will be in Washington next week with some board members visiting with the delegation. This legislation is very high on our list, as is the hiring freeze and the nominal funding Acadia gets for operations. There is a part of that bill we did not mention which has to do with a $350,000 appropriations for a solid waste entity. I understand the principle but if that appropriations has to come out of Acadia National Park base appropriation, that is devastating. There is not $350,000 to go around if it has to come out of base budget. So we will be speaking with the delegation on a number of issues and expressing the real interest and support of our whole organization for the community to make this park better in the coming century amongst all the challenges we face. So thanks for all the work that you do. I am really pleased with the level of engagement and if anyone wants to be in touch, you know where to find Stephanie and myself.
Steven Smith, Member of the Public, Otter Creek – Read a list of comments (copy attached). “I am here today to request one final time that this advisory commission study all of the concerns and requests made by the Aid Society of Otter Creek and brought before this group several times in the past. Some of these concerns are the following, but not limited to:
1. Cleaning up the problem of pollution of the inner creek from illegal dumping and insufficient flushing of sewerage.
2. Clean fresh water to the west-side fish house lot
3. Rights of the village to the west side fish house lot (10x5 rods)
4. Removal of rocks blocking our parking lots
5. Vista clearing at the foot of Ben’s Hill to the head of the creek
6. Freedom to pick up firewood on the side of the road instead of giving it all to campers; our ancestors settled this area
7. Speeding through the village; traffic
8. Repairing damage to the so-called Quarry Path
9. Enlarging the turn-around area of the town landing at the head of Otter Creek
These are some of our concerns. I have personally written a letter to President Trump asking for a meeting with the new Secretary of the Interior. We would like to see some headway on our concerns at the annual meeting in Otter Creek or we will be inclined to seek congressional legislation to reclaim the land surrounding our village and our body of water.
Jackie Johnston – Thank you Steve.
Martha Searchfield, Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce, Bar Harbor – Going forward with the transportation plan, a few years ago we had a situation with a vendor contract that became available through the public process and the national process. As we talk about the transportation plan in the future, it talks like there may be new concessionaires and new vendor contracts. What can be done now to start working on legislation that might protect local vendors who are already here and have had contracts in the park for a long time? Is it legislation? How do the regulations get amended so there is more local control? Is it possible?
John Kelly – If concessions regulations continue, we will be operating under the same national scope as to who can apply to that.
Kevin Schneider - Those are designed as a prospectus and the purpose of those concessions rules are to ensure the government gets the best return on the deal. So it is really to protect the government’s investment and those facilities in that contract. There is no authority for us to have a preference for a local business through the concessions contracts. It is designed to get the best deal for the government. If a different business has the best deal, then that is who the contract is awarded to. But the contract is awarded based on multiple factors. Financial return to the government is only one of several factors typically. Other factors we would award a contract on include things like the proposal’s plan to benefit the natural and cultural resources; so a proposal that includes protecting park resources would do better than another proposal. Visitor safety could be an element of a proposal. There are a number of things that could vary from a concessions contract to a concessions contract but the park service has no authority to give preference to local businesses. That would require legislation to authorize that. So the answer is a change in law.
Doug Heden, Member of the Public, Bar Harbor – There has been something in the press about exposing the Duck Brook Bridge by cutting back the trees so one could see it from Route 3. Is the committee or the park addressing that and who owns that land between the bridge and Route 3?
Becky Cole-Will - The land between Route 3 and the bridge is in the park; it is within the boundary of the park. I gave a short presentation to the Park Use Committee earlier about the issues in managing that area. Under Shoreland Zoning and Protection of Natural Resources, it would be really difficult in that provision to do any clearing in there that would amount to the kind of clearing that folks seem to be interested in, in order to see that route.
Jackie Johnston – Are there any other questions from the public? Are there any other questions from the Commission?
Fred Ehrlenbach – I have one on the legislation, section 4, solid waste management. It’s not on the purview of this commission to address it, but I personally have an issue with that item. Simply requested by Energy to hand out $350,000 that was stipulated to be spent on the construction of a transfer facility of Bar Harbor.
Ben (Lee) Worchester – In the 1986 Boundary Legislation, there was a provision where the national park would have contributed a piece of property and $350,000 if a transfer station were to be constructed on that piece of property. We are talking 1986 and, as far as I know, nobody has come up with a viable plan (anything) of putting a transfer station on it. So what they are looking at is, what do you do with the $350,000? Do you separate that part out and allow it to be used for solid waste purposes?
John Kelly – And just a technicality, that $350,000 is the difference between authorizing and appropriations. So even in 86 law, there is no money until it’s in appropriations. So that raises concerns David’s concerns about where it will be appropriated from. That is just one step of two steps.
Fred Ehrlenbach – I’m wondering if it should even be included in legislation or should we take a stance on it. The piece of property in question is land-locked. You can’t get to it. There is no defined right-ofway to it. I question whether or not to leave it in there.
Ben (Lee) Worchester – It is there because the Acadia Disposal District would like to get their hands on the $350,000 and they are an association of Mount Desert, Tremont, Trenton and Cranberry Island. It does not include Bar Harbor or the town of Southwest Harbor. However, this legislation does not specifically grant that money to them. It could go to the League of Towns, which does include all of the communities. It is the Acadia Disposal District that urged the delegation to include that in this legislation.
Kevin Schneider – My understanding is this was addressed in the 1986 legislation because there was concern that park visitors contributed to the waste stream on MDI. Now to the extent that we pay tipping fees when we dump our garbage and our park visitors, when they dine at restaurants and stay in campgrounds in the private sector, they pay those tipping fees when they take their garbage out, so typically, waste is addressed when you take your garbage and you pay tipping fees.
Ben Emory – David, it sounds like you have a decent understanding of this $350,000 issue and you also have the welfare of the park, as well as the welfare of the island, from an FOA standpoint, if this was taken out, would Friends of Acadia say it would be an improvement in the bill if they just delete this? Do you see a serious risk?
David MacDonald – Our issue is where it comes from. We don’t want to see it come at the expense of park-based operations. I don’t have history with the district and I don’t know why they put it in, and I would benefit from that, as well. This is the process legislation goes through. Another thing gets lumped in, and another thing…We want to ask the delegation about that, point blank, when we see them next week. I am concerned about it. There is no wiggle room in the park budget. This would severely impact their ability to hire seasonal staff.
Steve Shea made the motion, Matthew Horton – Seconded; All Accepted, No Opposed
Steven Smith, Member of the Public, Otter Creek- It has been brought up several times over the years to the park, the commission, the towns, the League of Towns, about a central dispatch system for reporting roadkill; for testing and labeling roadkill. Has this made any headway anywhere? Does anyone care about our animal world or what? Is it up to the individual towns and control officers?
Rebecca Cole-Will - This came up in another Advisory Commission meeting a year or two ago and I spoke to the concerns the park had and the issue and recommended you (or whoever has concerns about the issue) work with the Maine Audubon Society, which actually has a road-kill data base and information on how to do that. I can supply information about why we had concerns about having any capacity to manage for that in terms of how it would be implemented and who would be responsible for it. I can share that briefing statement why we think it is something we don’t have the capacity to manage right now.
Matt Horton – I think the police departments are getting the complaints and, in certain cases, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife get involved but in many cases they get involved to the extent that you (Steven Smith) want. A lot of time, the DOT will come take a carcass away. Maybe you could talk to the town police force and see how it works.
Steven Smith, Member of the Public, Otter Creek – I would like the League of Towns to take it on and go with it. It is the perfect opportunity for us to test for any diseases or ticks on all roadkill.
With no other public comments, the Commission Chair closed the public comments.
The Commission Chair made closing comments. Please remember to send any suggestions for agenda items for the June meeting to Jackie Johnston.
ADJOURNMENT The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 5th , 2017, 1:00 P.M. at Park Headquarters, McFarland Hill Drive, Bar Harbor, as published in the FEDERAL REGISTER. Motion was made to adjourn, seconded, and approved by all.
The meeting adjourned at 3:20 pm. Minutes Submitted by Kathy Flanders, with modifications from Jacqueline Johnston, Chair, Acadia National Park Advisory Commission
Last updated: January 26, 2018