ACADIA NATIONAL PARK ADVISORY COMMISSION MEETING
Meeting Platform: WebExFebruary 01, 2021 1:00 p.m.
Fred Ehrlenbach, Chair
Jacqueline Johnston, Vice Chair
Ben Worcester, Member
Carolyn Gothard, Member
Howie Motenko, Member
Ken Cline, Member
G. Bruce Wiersma, Member
Dexter Lee, Member
Ken Smith, Member
Kendall Davis, 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
Jay Elhard, Acting PIO, ANP
Kevin Langley, Chief of Administration, 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
Staff Members of ANP
Katherine Heidinger, Secretary
Matt Horton, Member
Stephen Shea, Member
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, February 1, 2021, 1:00 p.m. to order.
APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA
A motion was made by Ken Smith to accept the agenda for the February 1, 2021, meeting; seconded by Dexter Lee; all approved as is, no opposed. Motion carries.
*One adjustment in Agenda: Moved Park Use Committee meeting minutes up to report first as Jackie Johnston will need to leave the meeting early. (All approved)
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
A motion was made to accept the minutes of September 14, 2020. It was seconded and accepted.
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – Kevin Schneider, Superintendent Park Status
Update (Kevin Schneider) Welcome
Welcome and thank you for your patience as we work through another online meeting. Park Operations with COVID:
- I am proud of how our team has done at preventing spread of COVID – safety is always our first priority, and this has been no different. We haven’t had any outbreaks within our workforce or visitors.
- Our law enforcement rangers have been vaccinated. We would like to recognize the MDI hospital for their assistance with vaccination.
- Masks are now required in any buildings, and in outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be maintained. It is likely will have further details as the president’s new executive order gets translated to park operations and the field.
- Employees who can telework are continuing to predominately telework. Both Mike and I are mostly teleworking.
- We do not have firm decisions about 2021 operations.
- The Island Explorer will run, but will have reduced service; fewer routes, limits on the number of people that can be on board a bus to maintain distancing, but more frequent service for those fewer routes
- We want to try and run campgrounds this summer, but we are still trying to sort out how they will operate.
- We have not made final decisions on how we will operate our employee housing for 2021 and depending on whether, or not, we allow shared housing could influence our seasonal staffing levels if people cannot find housing.
- Whether indoors or outdoors, we will try and maintain operations at Hulls Cove and the Nature Center at Sieur de Mont.
- There are lots of virtual educational programming. I think this is one of the silver linings of the pandemic; it has accelerated our ability to deliver this programming remotely.
- Since Sept we have done 306 programs that have reach 4,385 kids
- FOA has been supporting virtual programming as well, helping us with equipment and staffing!
- Visitation Levels/Review:
- Obviously last year was off in terms of visitation; however, from about July on, things were busy, almost on par with a “normal” year.
- 2020 was down 22% from 2019, but the majority of this decline was May to July.
- Visitation from personal vehicles was up this year from August on.
- We are seeing the park continue to be busy during this off season; people are trying to get outside and recreate in a safe manner.
- Entrance fee revenue last year was also down about $1.4 million, in addition to the loss of revenue from operating campgrounds (about $500-600k that we retain).
- We expect 2021 to be at, or near, normal levels of visitation. There are several reasons for our optimism:
- Vaccinations: Even if everyone is not vaccinated, the most vulnerable people will be, which will boost traveler’s confidence.
- We saw the second half of the visitor season at near normal levels of visitation, and anecdotal trends we are seeing now in the outdoor recreation world with skiing suggests that people want to be participating in outdoor recreation during this time.
- Surveys show interest in visiting national parks near the top of the list for travelers’ interest, with 55% of survey respondents in mid-January saying they were “interested or very interested”. The highest was “enjoying scenic beauty” at 60%. Road trips are also near the top at 54%. This is much of Acadia’s demographic. o Acadia also offers a range of budget options; camping to resort.
- Cruise ship visitation may take more time to recover but the cruise industry is likely to aggressively market, offer incentives, to encourage a return to cruising
- International travel will also take time to recover – projections are showing it depressed until 2025. Status of Concessions
- Unfortunately, we had to cancel the prospectus for Wildwood Stables. The disruption to the travel and tourism industry brought on by the pandemic forced this. This will allow the market to stabilize before a new long-term contract is awarded.
- However, Carriages of Acadia will be able to continue to provide services at Wildwood as they have in the past, so we won’t have any disruption in visitor services.
Great American Outdoors Act (Kevin Schneider & Keith Johnston)
- We are really excited about GAOA, it is an extraordinary opportunity for Acadia. We have been extremely busy, especially Keith, internally, trying to get projects ready for submission to this fund source. The fund source is really focused on curing deferred maintenance and reducing our maintenance backlog. This means that we are going to be doing replacements in kind and minimizing the amount of capital improvement to keep projects eligible for the fund source.
- We are getting assistance with managing some of these projects from outside the park, but we are also looking internally at what staffing changes we need to make to help be successful.
- In FY2021, the first year of the program, we are going to be funding a major water and wastewater replacement on the Schoodic Peninsula.
- We considered putting our maintenance building in for Great American Outdoors Act, but it was decided to move this into a different fund source, line item construction. We have funding in hand to complete design for the maintenance building this fiscal year. We expect to receive the funding for construction next fiscal year in the line item program.
Some of our other priorities for GAOA include, over the next four future fiscal years:
- Jordan Pond House renovation or reconstruction. The contract comes up for renewal at the end of 2023, so timing is great to address DM there. Also includes renovating employee housing
- Housing on the Schoodic campus for participants in Schoodic Institute programs. Hasn’t been touched since the Navy left. Schoodic Institute has helped fund predesign so that is helping turbo charge this one.
- Water and wastewater systems at Sand Beach and Cadillac Mountain
- Bass Harbor Head Light historic preservation
- Historic clay tile roof at Rockefeller Hall and other roofs on the Schoodic campus.
- Demolishing employee housing and replacing at Harden Farm 2021
Major Projects (Keith Johnston)
Eagle Lake Carriage Road Rehabilitations
- Contract awarded to local contractor Harold MacQuinn.
- Work has started on the connector road from Liscomb Pit to Eagle Lake Carriage Road. Construction access to the project will occur using this new access road.
- The contractor is in winter shut down until April. Once work restarts it will continue through to middle or end of September.
- Although the majority of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road will be closed for the summer, sections may reopen to the public as they are completed.
- The park and contractor will work to maintain access as much as possible for users to walk between the Aunt Betty Pond section and Witch Hole Pond sections of the Carriage Road Network as they connect under Route 233 and use a small section of the Eagle Lake Carriage Road between those areas.
- Parking areas will remain open for users, parking for water access at the boat ramp and the small lot off RT 233 with the vault toilets. Other Park Projects
Recently completed work includes the replacement of the Schoodic Powerline and the rehabilitation of the Islesford Museum.
- This summer the water tower on the Schoodic Campus will be undergoing repairs and rehabilitation. In addition, both Gatehouses, with the help of staff from the Historic Preservation and Training Center, will have their exteriors repaired, including woodwork, masonry, roof tiles and copper gutters. The gate stone structures will also receive some masonry repairs.
Transportation Plan (John Kelley)Acadia Gateway Center
- Three miles north of MDI
- Developing Infrastructure
- $23 million partner project
- $4 million needed from NPS (17%)
- $9 million FTA grant to State of Maine
Construction in 2022; Opening summer of 2024 Hulls Cove Visitor Center
- New Visitor Center with exhibits
- Expanded parking
- Dedicated Island Explorer Hub
- Funding secured for pre-planning in 2021 Island Explorer Enhancement
- Enhanced service to serve the Acadia gateway Center and Park Loop Road
- Expand fleet to purchase 21 buses over the next 5 years
Limited service in 2021 under CDC guidelines; fewer routes, limited riders, more condensed service Bus Tour Concessions
- New concessions contracts for bus tours
- Bus length limit of 38 feet; phase out of CUAs
- Contracting process on hold due to COVID-19 Vehicle Reservation Pilot Findings
- Pilot was conducted October 1-18, 2020. We partnered with VHB (infrastructure) and BAH (recreation.gov). Reservation were only available on ec.gov at $2.00; 30- minute windows starting at 7:00 am Only applied to vehicles; with a daily limit. Included Cadillac Summit Road and Sand Beach Entrance Station. Produced rack cards, used 6-foot banners, and used many road signs
- There was a lack of awareness of vehicle requirements
- There was confusion with the park entrance pass requirements
- Changes are needed to improve recreation.gov
- There were difficulties with the validation of vehicle reservations
- Misunderstanding of Sand Beach Entrance reservations
- Infrastructure improvements needed to improve safety and operations
- We adjusted the quota for late afternoon into sunset
- 30-36% turnarounds on average
- Traffic and parking impacts, both in and outside the park. Vehicles were parked on the side of the road to walk to the Loop Road sites. Vehicles would park at Schooner Head, Route 3 by the Tarn and just past Otter Cliffs and walk; this was mainly a result of no Island Explorer, the reservation system at Sand Beach, and the holiday weekend.
- Need to expand the Island Explorer service Reservation Plans and Fees
- Improved access to recreation.gov in 2021
- Need an option to purchase the park entrance pass when they make the reservation
- $2.00 Administrative fee for rec.gov in 2020; proposal for 2021 increased to $6.00 which includes $200 administrative fee and $4.00 retained by park for staff and infrastructure. It takes approximately 15-20 staff to operate Cadillac Summit Road and we need to improve infrastructure.
- Public comments accepted through February 11 on the NPS’s “PEPC” website
- News release with link to the reservation system
Bass Harbor Head Light (John Kelly)
- Building and 2 acres of land acquired July 2020
- We have the Historic Structure Report, completed February 2020
- 130-foot obsolete, non-historic communications tower removed by park on June 2020
- Preliminary planning workshop held June 2020
- There is a demand for traffic and parking
- Inability for the Island Explorer to provide service
- We are working with the Sheriff’s Dept on a work plan for summer
- Looking at a comprehensive site plan to address overall use and access
- Looking at opportunity to use GAOA funding to complete
DM With the end of the Superintendent’s Report and no further questions, we moved on the Old Business.
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. We have no new information on the three pending positions yet.
No New Business
Lands Committee – No Report
Science & Education Committee – No Report
Park Use Committee – Jackie Johnstone addressed two topics; review of the use of ebikes and issues surrounding the use of ebikes and regular bikes and horses on the Carriage Roads; as well as reduction of the speed limits on the Carriage Roads. The committee would like a review of ebikes, regular bikes and horses in the coming season. Staff will modify behavior and messaging. They are working with the local bike rental businesses.
History Committee – No Report
SCHOODIC INSTITUTE UPDATE – Nicholas Fisichelli, President & CEO
- Like everyone we are mostly working remotely, making safe socially distanced space for those who must be on campus to be able to get their jobs done
- As an organization, we continue to navigate the pandemic, biggest impacts have been to all the things that require convening large in-person groups:
- SEA: spring 2020, fall 2020, and spring 2021
- Hosting all kinds of other groups on campus; science volunteers, college courses, etc.
- Much has shifted to virtual
- we did host a small number of small groups in the fall and have implemented many safety precautions that we will continue to use this year
- we have lots of space on campus, which really helps, including outdoor space
- we’re hopeful that 2021 will be busy again on campus, especially in the latter half of the year, but we need to see how things play out, of course, and work closely with Kevin and all the staff at the park to consistently apply safety measures
- most groups from 2020 rebooked for 2021 or 2022
- we have lots of tentative groups for this year and are trying to be flexible with folks Kevin mentioned the GAOA and we are working closely with Kevin and, especially, Keith Johnston and team on this. Through our close partnership with ANP, we are improving this amazing NPS campus and asset and creating more opportunities for professionals (managers and scientists), school-aged kids and learners of all ages, and lots of other kinds of groups to have transformative experiences in this special place. We have contracted with Design Group Collaborative as the Architecture and Engineering firm on predesign - to quantify DM and develop concept designs for renovating or replacing the Schoodic Shores apartments; two critical steps in the planning process to get this project into GAOA queue
Science and Education
- We had a small field research crew last summer (2 technicians) that worked on a variety of projects, including the Cadillac Summit restoration and plant and wildlife monitoring in watersheds on MDI as part of Wild Acadia, the big FOA initiative
- Our grant funded science continues, basically everything that doesn’t require convening in person in large groups, e.g., assessing forest health and management options across 39 eastern parks from ME to WV, working with high school students virtually, studying rockweed in the intertidal zone, monitoring migratory and resident birds
- I’ve presented on SCS in the past, with Abe Miller-Rushing. We are in the final selection process for 2021 fellows, 3 new science fellows doing management relevant science in ANP Acadia Science Symposium Normally a day-long extravaganza in October. This year, it is a multi-month-long extravaganza with 2-hr virtual sessions every month or so.
- Kick off in October (overview of research in ANP)
- Monitoring change in Acadia 1/14
Early career opportunities in Acadia (1/27) w/speakers from SI, NPS, FOA, and UMaine
FRIENDS OF ACADIA – David MacDonald, President & CEO
The Board has passed the FOA Budget. We were able to include grants, visitor experience, youth engagement, trails, and the Carriage Roads. The VHP is working behind the scenes on the reservation system. There is funding for Virtual Programming, the Carriage House and Carriage Roads work. Using photographs and artificial intelligence, we are taking Wild Acadia work to another level; a 3-model project with the park and Schoodic Institute, taking a proactive stance on climate change. We are looking at a new approach on what works rather than a looking at what has worked in the past.
- Replacing and restoring to handle changing conditions; not historical
- Cadillac Summit - native vegetation, looking at what species will thrive
- Bass Harbor Marsh – eradicate the glossy Buckthorn; replenish with a species that will do well
- Great Meadow – restore the wetland health and stream flow We are aware of the plans for Aquaculture on Frenchman’s Bay and watching for options for public input and how it will impact the park. Earl Brechlin has retired and is being replaced with Lori Schaefer. Lori is from the Portland area.
Robert Ottavi - Can the public park at the Eagle Lake parking lot and ride their bikes to Aunt Betty’s Pond during construction? And will there be a new parking lot, will it have access to the Carriage Road, and will it be wheelchair accessible?
Keith Johnston – Yes, the parking lot will be open. Yes, there will be established parking and it will be handicapped accessible.
Alexander Forbes – There has been congestion (during the reservation system) for tour groups which makes it difficult when we are on a tight schedule.
Kevin Langley – There is a plan for separate reservation que for commercial use.
Given no further public comments, the Commission Chair made closing comments. Please remember to send any suggestions for agenda items for the June 7th, 2021, meeting to Fred Ehrlenbach. Thank you to Congressional Representatives, Chris Rector and Carol Woodcock, for attending the Advisory Commission meeting today. One correction in the September 14, 2020 minutes; It reads the next meeting scheduled for June 6; change to June 7, All agreed.
The Commission Chair, Fred Ehrlenbach, made the proposal to meet in-person June 7th at Schoodic Institute. Davis moved accept, Motenko seconded, Worcester and Gothard opposed.
It was decided it will be re-assessed mid-April based on the COVID-19 mandates.
The June meeting will have an election of officers.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 07, 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 to adjourn, seconded by Kendall Davis, and approved by all, no opposed.Motion passed.
Meeting adjourned at 2:32 pm
Minutes Submitted by Kathy Flanders