ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING
Meeting Platform: WebEx
September 14, 2020 1:00 p.m.
Fred Ehrlenbach, Chair
Jacqueline Johnston, Vice Chair
Ben Worcester, Member
Carolyn Gothard, Member
Katherine Heidinger, Secretary
Howie Motenko, Member
Ken Cline, Member
G. Bruce Wiersma, Member
Matt Horton, Member
Dexter Lee, Member
Ken Smith, Member
Kendall Davis, Member
Stephen Shea, Member
Kevin Schneider, Superintendent, ANP
Mike Madell, Deputy Superintendent, ANP
Rebecca Cole-Will, Chief of Resource Management, ANP
John Kelly, Management Assistant, ANP
Therese Picard, Chief Ranger, ANP
Keith Johnston, Chief of Facility Management, ANP
Laura Cohen, Chief of Visitor & Education, ANP
Emily Seger-Pagan, Lands, ANP
Christie Anastasia, Public Information Officer, ANP
Kevin Langley, Chief of Interpretation, ANP
David MacDonald, President & CEO, Friends of Acadia
Nick Fisicelli, President & CEO, Schoodic Institute
Chris Rector, Regional Rep, Senator King
Carol Woodcock, Regional Rep, Senator Collins
Members of the Public
LOGISTICS – Mike Madell, Deputy Superintendent
- Mike covered the logistics of the WebEx meeting; please mute microphones unless speaking. When you would like to request to speak, please raise your hand.
The Commission Chair called the meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, Monday, September 14th, 2020, 1:00 p.m. to order.
APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA
A motion was made by Ken Smith to accept the agenda for the September 14, 2020, meeting; seconded by Ben Worcester; all approved as is, no opposed. Motion carries.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
A motion was made by Ben Worcester to accept the minutes of the Advisory Commission Meeting of September 9th, 2019; seconded by Ken Smith; all approved; no opposed. Motion carries.
(There were no minutes to approve for February 1st, 2020, as the meeting was a non-official meeting due to not being published in the Federal Register within 10 days of the meeting. The June 3rd, 2020, meeting was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – Kevin Schneider, Superintendent
Park Status Update (Kevin Schneider)
- Kevin Schneider welcomed Kendall Davis to the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission. Kendall will represent the Town of Mount Desert.
- YTD visitation down 32% from 2019; visitation to all national parks is down about 55% from last year
- June visitation was down 59%
- July started picking back up beginning with the 4th of July and literally getting busier by the week since then. Month of July was off 27%, but the last week was only off by 12%
- We actually had almost 5% more cars entering thru Sand Beach this August – second highest number in 20 years. However, no Island Explorer and very few commercial bus passengers
- There was a 10% decline parkwide in August o Schoodic was down closer to 20% this August
- Labor Day was very busy
- No idea what the next 6 weeks will hold – people seem to be making travel plans last minute. Thankfully we are an outdoor park – we know that the risk of transmission of the virus is substantially reduced in an outdoor setting
- Visitation will rebound as it already has
Park Operation with COVID:
- Focused heavily on cleaning, particularly restrooms. We have generally doubled the cleaning intensity of restrooms
- Visitor information is taking place outdoors – Sieur du Monts, Hulls Cove, Schoodic
- Took us longer to re-open the park in June because many staff were at home through much of April and part of March
- Now most everything is back up and running. The exception is campgrounds. It was decided to keep them closed. Acadia simply did not have enough staff to clean restrooms at a frequency necessary to prevent the spread of COVID; there are a lot of restrooms in the campgrounds.
- Search and Rescue (SAR), law enforcement has figured out how to minimize risk during these activities.
- There has been a spike in SARs this year. We have had some occasions where we had 2 or even 3 running simultaneously. More people out hiking perhaps, which could be due to more active visitor demographic.
- For all park operations we have done Job Hazard Analyses to figure out how to do the work safely
- Folks who can telework are continuing to telework. Headquarters has very few people here; the computer work is taking place at home.
- I have been part of the Downeast COVID task force organized by Elsie Flemings from Healthy Acadia and I very much appreciate being included in that
Great American Outdoors Act:
- Nearly $7 billion over 5 years to address Deferred Maintenance
- Largest investment since the Mission 66 initiative
- Also, permanently funds Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
- We have several projects that are “shovel ready”.
- Executing this law will become among our top priorities for the next 5-8 years. This is a once in a career opportunity. Our team is committed to this.
- We don’t know how much funding we will receive or what will be funded at this point. FY21 list of projects will be provided by the Department of the Interior to Congress in October/November timeframe.
- Acadia’s top priorities for GAOA:
- Maintenance Building is at the top of the list – completed schematic design (SD), ready for the possibility of a design/build contract.
- Schoodic Shores Housing – beginning pre-design effort thanks to Schoodic Institute
- Jordan Pond House has major deferred maintenance and design flaws – timing is great with the current contract ending in 2023
- Bass Harbor Head Light
- Our headquarters building – also completed SD and is “shovel ready”
- Employee Housing
- Water and Wastewater systems parkwide
- LWCF is also a big deal, and will provide money to both the states and federal lands
- Thanks to the entire Maine Congressional delegation for helping to get this across the finish line.
Transportation Plan (John Kelley)
Road-Based Tour Concession Contract
Island Explorer Enhancement
- On hold due to COVID-19; may require a reassessment of the business opportunity assumptions
Hulls Cove Visitor Center
- Enhanced service plan completed, but 2021 operation is not clear yet due to COVID19
- Funding requested from Federal Highways Administration to purchase 21 buses over the next 5 years
- NPS funding secured to start preliminary redesign taking from Transportation Plan’s conceptual design
Acadia Gateway Center (show slides)
Vehicle Reservation Pilot
- October 1 - 18
- Cadillac Summit Road (4:30 am to 6:30 pm) and Sand Beach Entrance (7 am to 5 pm) sections of the Park Loop Road
- Reservations provide a timed entry, but do not require a departure time
- Reservations must be purchased in advance online at Recreation.gov for $2.00 each
- Reservations will not be sold at the park
- Park entrance passes are required in addition to the vehicle reservation
- Operating under an Incident Command System framework with Therese Picard as Incident Commander; all hands needed to make it happen
- Infrastructure changes: lanes at base of Cadillac Summit Road, booths under construction, License Plate Readers purchased, road signs ordered, electronic messaging boards deployed next week
- Communications: rack cards to Maine Tourism Association, local Chambers of Commerce, and local lodging; banner, media releases, social media posts, website, Constant Contact
Bass Harbor Head Light (John Kelly)
- Transferred from the USCG to NPS, Acadia National Park on July 8
- 130-foot obsolete, non-historic communications tower removed by park on June 19
- Red acrylic covering on light was removed by USCG in July; replaced with red LED
- Preliminary reuse workshop was held on June 26: tours by reservation, interpretive exhibits, bookstore, gallery/event space, volunteer (Artists in Residence) housing
- Next steps - comprehensive site plan to address overall use and access; look at opportunity to use GAOA funding to complete DM
Concessions (Kevin Langley)
This has been a challenging year for concession operations due to the pandemic
▪ Oli’s Trolley and National Park Tours converted from concessions to CUA holders as their contracts expired and the new prospectus for commercial road-based tours has not been announced.
▪ Oli’s Trolley has been operating adhering to state guidelines their passenger capacity per bus has gone from 32-35 to approximately 12.
▪ National Park Tours made the decision not to operate at all this year.
• Dawnland has been operating the Jordan Pond House restaurant and associated giftshops in compliance with state restrictions.
▪ The restaurant is providing takeout and visitors are permitted to self-seat up to 50
▪ Revenue is approximately 40% of 2019.
Carriages of Acadia
In 2019 each carriage carried approximately 12 passengers. This year that number is down to 2 unaffiliated couples per trip. More can be permitted if the passengers are affiliated and traveling together.
▪ New pricing has been approved to align with the passenger caps
▪ Though the prospectus for a new concession operation at Wildwood was released but the new contract has not been awarded.
▪ The Deputy Director for Management and Administration issued a memorandum dated April 3, 2020, “Moratorium on Releasing Solicitations for Concession Contracts and Leases,” This original moratorium has been extended through Sept 30, 2020 “ The NPS cannot award any contract in which it cannot demonstrate a reasonable opportunity for profit. Current economic volatility was not accounted for when the financial analysis was completed. The park and the region have been working to secure a waiver to award the contract. Additionally, the service is exploring alternatives such as a contract extension or short-term contract to avoid a lapse in service.
Maintenance Projects (Keith Johnston):
Eagle Lake Carriage Road Rehabilitations
General park Project Updates
- Seven miles of the Eagle Lake Carriage Roads has been awarded to Harold McQuinn for rehabilitation. The project will entail reconstruction to its original drainages and culverts, and the crown will be restored. Liscomb Pit will be used as a temporary access. The project will hopefully begin March, 2021 with completion early next fall.
- Schoodic – Three miles of the 1945 Power line have been replaced
- Schoodic – Design process for the wastewater system
- Reconstruction of the Cadillac Mountain Radio Tower
- Reconsruction of the Isleford Museum is ongoing, but a little behind schedule
- Rehab of the 150,000-gallon water tower at Schoodic
- The Gatehouse boilers and exterior work has been deferred due to COVID
- We are designing a new Echo Lake sewer system
- We are cutting and cleaning up debris on the Carriage Road
Status of Appointments to the Advisory Commission –Mike Madell, Deputy Superintendent
To date, nine appointments have been renewed; three are still pending, and one is a new appointment, Kendall Davis, representing the town of Mount Desert. There are still three vacancies; Frenchboro, Cranberry Isles, and one Public at Large.
2021 Meeting Dates for the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission (Mike Madell):
• February 1, 2021
• June 7, 2021
• September 13, 2021
The September meeting will be held at Schoodic Institute, Winter Harbor, ME.
The remaining two meetings will be held at park headquarters, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, ME (Pending the situation with COVID-19)
A motion was made by Ken Smith to accept the meeting dates as stated, seconded by Jackie Johnston, all accepted, no oppose. Motion carries.
Proposed Land Exchange (Emily Seger-Pagan)
- Minor Boundary Revision, Bar Harbor: This project we have been discussing since 2017, and it is finally moving to the final stages. This is the minor boundary revision that will affect two parcels of land in Bar Harbor, along Route 3 near "The Bluffs" and the park's visitor center. A deletion of 0.2 acres of NPS land from the boundary will resolve an encroachment, and an addition of 0.88 acres to the boundary will protect a stream riparian habitat next to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
- Lyman Conservation Easement Amendment: This is a correction and amendment to a NPS conservation easement on the Lyman property, located on Sutton Island in the Town of Cranberry Isles. The purpose of the amendment is to correct the number of buildings that existed at the time of easement conveyance, as the error affects how many houses are permitted on the property. Also, the amendment will further strengthen the restrictions for scenic conservation in terms of building sizes permitted.
The Land’s Committee met online prior to the public meeting and made the recommendation to accept the two land proposals.
Ken Smith made the request Acadia National Park meet with the town of Bar Harbor regarding the boundary revision. Per Emily, the park will be meeting with the town of Bar Harbor, the delegation, and posted for three weeks, and a notice in the Federal Register before being finalized.
The motion was made by Fred Ehrlenbach to recommend the National Park Service proceed as recommended on both land proposals. Ben Worcester seconded the option. All approved; no opposed. Motion carries on both land proposals, Minor Boundary Revision, Bar Harbor and Lyman Conservation Easement Amendment.
Acadia Education Programs Update (Laura Cohen)
Election of Officers (Fred Ehrlenbach)
- No Schoodic Education Adventure (SEA) in-person programming in Spring 2020 and Fall 2020. We are hopeful for spring 2021, depending on the status of the virus.
- Virtual programming is in full force with the NPS and its’ partners at Friends of Acadia and Schoodic Institute, reaching schools they never reached before. 2500 at-home environmental learning kits have been prepared for students, to include activities, notebooks, rulers, thermometers, etc., for educational opportunities in their own backyards.
The election of officers was not held in June as the meeting was canceled due to COVID. Therefore, the election is being held today, during the September 14, 2020, meeting.
• The position of Chair: Fred Ehrlenbach
• The position of Vice Chair: Jacqueline Johnston
• The position of Secretary: Katherine Heidinger
A motion was made by Dexter Lee to re-elect the existing officers in their present positions for 2021. The motion was seconded by Fred Ehrlenbach. All approved – no objections. Motion passed.
– No Report
Land’s Committee needs a Chair for Vice Ben Emory’s position. Ben Worcester was nominated for the chair position, all accepted, no opposed. Motion passed.
Science & Education Committee
– No Report
Park Use Committee
– No Report
– No Report
SCHOODIC INSTITUTE UPDATE
– Nicholas Fisicelli, President & CEO
Nick gave an update on Schoodic Institute and the impacts of COVID. Updates include lack of hosting large groups on campus, the cancellation of the Schoodic Education programs, staffing changes, and the Welcome Center at Rockefeller closed. There have been some small education groups and a small art group. Plexi glass has been installed in the dining room and safety protocols are followed. A virtual talk included 250 attendees; more than a face-to-face. A new Forestry Ecology Program Director, Peter Nelson, was hired, along with two seasonal techs and 3 seasonal Forest Techs; working on Forest Health.
FRIENDS OF ACADIA
– David MacDonald, President & CEO
So much has changed in our world and in our park. It requires contact support. Donor revenue is down this year, but grants will be up. A $1 million dollar grant is going to the Gateway Center. Our long-term vision is the same this year, but tactics have changed. Our focus is on Visitor Experience and Youth Engagement. $250,000 was raised at our annual fundraiser. Under the Emergency Hiring Authority, we are looking at local hiring, pilot, and big projects; Evaluating Projects; and the Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), which was suspending this year. We are looking at how to make the YCC better in the future. Revenue will be down with visitation down, as well as concessions. We are taking a hit on charitable funds. And the volunteer program is being challenged. The Invasive Plant team has tackled some big projects in partnership mode, to include Bass Harbor Marsh, 5-8 acres.
Carol Woodcock, Representative for Senator Susan Collins
– It is great to be back and hear what is going on in Acadia. It is interesting to be brought up to date). Thank you.
Given no further public comments, the Commission Chair made closing comments. Please remember to send any suggestions for agenda items for the February 1 st, 2021, meeting to Fred Ehrlenbach.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 01st, 2021, 1:00 P.M. at Park Headquarters, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine, as published in the FEDERAL REGISTER. (*Meeting location may change pending COVID-19).
Motion was made by Ken Smith to adjourn, seconded by Ben Worcester, and approved by all, no opposed. Motion passed.
Meeting adjourned at 2:31 pm
Minutes Submitted by Kathy Flanders