Location: Acadia National Park Headquarters
ABSENT MEMBERS: None
The Commission Chair called the meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, Monday, February 4th, 2019, 1:00 p.m. to order.
APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA
A motion was made to approve the agenda, seconded; all approved; no opposed.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES
A motion was made by Ken Smith to accept the minutes of the Advisory Meeting of September 10th, 2018; seconded by Fred Ehrlenbach; all approved; no opposed.
SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT – Kevin Schneider, Superintendent
Park Status Update – Kevin Schneider
Gave an update on the furlough period and its impacts on the park. Extended appreciation to the staff, including those who worked without pay, Friends of Acadia, Schoodic Institute, and the communities for all their support during the government shutdown.
We have basically lost 10%, or 35 days, of the year. We lost time and productivity. We are still taking stock of the impacts on the park, trying to determine what happened, but fortunately, we did not have the kind of impacts as other parks. Luckily at Acadia, this was not our busy time of the year and most of the people visiting are from the local area or from the region. They know the park and they know how to visit.
But we are concerned for our summer seasonal hiring, which is a lengthy process for the federal government, and the earliest our seasonal employees start is early to mid-April. Much of the hiring process takes place outside of the park (for example background investigations). We only control about three weeks of the process locally, which would be interviewing and making selections, and so forth. Contracting actions are also a concern for us. In order to meet our target of obligating funding by the end of our fiscal year, September 30th, we need to be working throughout the year on contracting. Depending on the size of the job, that process can also be quite lengthy.
The Superintendent was furloughed and signed a Delegation of Authority over to the Chief Ranger, Stuart West, who served as Incident Commander (as the Superintendent) for those 35 days. Stuart will give a brief report on what he saw over those 35 days.
During a budget-related shutdown the Anti-Deficiency Act kicks in, which prohibits the government from spending funds that have not been appropriated. The park has many accounts which cannot be paid, like the telephones, cell phones, oil deliveries, propane deliveries, electricity, and so on. All the things we normally pay on a routine basis were not being paid. All those bills that came in the end of the month suddenly became overdue. Therese Picard and I shared the job of calling those companies up and requesting an extension of time due to the government shutdown. Whatever accounts we could stop we did. While we worked on the administrative efforts, the rangers were out plowing to keep the facilities and housing open. They also were checking buildings for heat and propane levels. If levels got below 20%, we had to call the regional office requesting an emergency delivery, which required special paperwork. Everything was labor intensive. We did well until we had the big warmup and rain, melting snow and ice, and we had flooded basements and a broken water main at Schoodic. At that point, we called in some of the maintenance staff to get things operational again. Basically, what we did was keep Acadia in the line with regulations. But we sure missed all the staff we normally work with. The outpouring of generosity from the communities was amazing. We are not sure how this will affect our opening dates in the spring but we will do the best we can do. We will try to take care of the public the way they took care of us.
Transportation Plan – Kevin Schneider
There is not much of an update due to being furloughed for 35 days. We are still working through the review process with our Washington office and the Department. But we still hope to have the final EIS out this spring. We hope to have more to report at our June Advisory Commission meeting.
Bass Harbor Head Light Acquisition – John Kelly, Management Assistant
Like the Transportation Plan, there is not much to report on the transfer. The Coast Guard’s legal team needs to review the conveyance documents. There are still a number of steps to review in terms of a right-of-way and separation of power to maintain the light. I will get an update this week.
The Town of Tremont imposed a no parking on the roadside on their portion of the lighthouse road up to 102A. To be consistent, the park also will post our section of the road as no parking. So a big portion of what we need to do as we move forward is, not to just look at the lighthouse and how we are going to use it but, to look at how it affects that whole area, including access, parking and transportation and that ties back to our transportation plan; including increase parking capacity and manage the flow of traffic. There is a lot to look at including a landscape plan and reuse of the lighthouse, in addition to the transfer to the park service.
There are several things the park service is required to do once we get the transfer documents. For example, we have to determine if there are any hazardous materials or contaminants on site before we acquire the property.
Acadia Workforce Housing Initiative – John Kelly, Management Assistant
We hoped to provide an update on Acadia’s deferred maintenance, but as we only had one week to prepare prior to this meeting, we are not able to do that. I apologize. We can put it back on the calendar for the June meeting.
Introduction of New Staff - Kevin Schneider
Dr. Adam Gibson, Social Scientist, filling a position vacated by Charlie Jacobi, who retired. Adam comes from the University of Oklahoma. He will be working on Visitor Use Management, Visitor Impacts, Leave No Trace, the Summit Stewards program; anything involving visitors. He has worked in and around national parks as part of his academic training and professional experience. We are excited to have him join us at Acadia. Adam moved here during the government shutdown. So we had to figure out how to make this happen when the government is shut down and Stuart played an important role in that.
Appointments to the Advisory Commission – Mike Madell, Deputy Superintendent
The process has stalled over the last few weeks. Terms expire in approximately two weeks. Two towns recently were mailed reminders; the third town not responding is Frenchboro (which has historically declined to participate). Make sure your resumes are updated and submitted to Kathy Flanders. Per regulation, commission members can continue to serve until reappointed or replaced.
Status of the New Boundary Legislation – Kevin Schneider
With the new Congress, the Acadia Boundary Legislation has been reintroduced. It is more or less identical to the versions that were in the House and the Senate in the last Congress. I understand it has been packaged as part of an omnibus act.
Chris Rector of Senator Kings Office – I think that is the case. There was an assurance because Congress adjourned without having passed this but it had gone through the entire committee process that it would be moved swiftly and we expect action very soon. I can’t tell you exactly when. Like everything in Congress, it’s a little unpredictable right now. But it will be moving very soon.
Nominations – Callie Gothard, Advisory Commission
Nominations for officers for the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission are up for election at the June meeting. These positions include Chair, Vice Chair and Secretary. Per the by-laws, officers have a three-year term limit to hold a position. Nominations must be submitted to Callie Gothard 30 days prior to the June 3rd, 2019, meeting.
The present positions are filled by:
Chair – Jackie Johnston (3 year term expires June, 2019)
Vice Chair – Fred Ehrlenbach (3 year term expires June, 2019)
Secretary – Callie Gothard (3 year term expires June, 2019)
Lands Committee – Ben Emory
The Lands Committee met this morning with Emily Seger Pagan, Land Resource Specialist, at Acadia National Park. There was discussion on three action items, which we are bringing to the commission today. They include two proposed conservation easements and one proposed conservation easement amendment. After discussion and questions, the following motions were made and approved.
The first proposed conservation easement is a 127 acre parcel on Seal Cove on Swan’s Island, which faces Jericho Bay. The easement proposes to preserve current land use with the exception of possibly allowing one more residence in addition to the one modest house already on the property. Hunting is allowed. The Town of Swan’s Island has not objected. We recommend that the commission recommend to the park to accept the easement. I would like to add that Bob DeForrest of Maine Coast Heritage Trust and Karen Marchetti, Attorney to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, have been very involved with this easement, as well as Emily Pagan. We have a lot of confidence in the team that has come forward with it.
A motion was made by Ben Emory to recommend the park accept a conservation easement at Seal Cove on Swan’s Island. Seconded by Dexter Lee, all accepted, no opposed.
The ANP Advisory Commission and Acadia National Park extends their appreciation to the McDuffy family, who were present at the Advisory Commission meeting, for offering such a spectacular piece of property. It is a wonderful thing you are doing in preserving such a great piece of land.
The second proposed conservation easement is on the eastern end of Sutton Island, which includes 22 acres. The easement would be highly visible from the eastern way. The easement would prohibit all buildings. The Selectmen of Cranberry Isles have no objection. We recommend to the full commission that it vote to recommend to the park to accept the easement.
A motion was made by Ken Cline to recommend the park accept a conservation easement on the eastern end of Sutton Island. Seconded by Katherine Heidinger, all accepted, no opposed.
The third proposed conservation easement amendment is located on Fernald Point in Southwest Harbor. There are multiple adjacent easements on properties that have residences and the middle of the point belongs to the park. A property owner on Fernald Point, John Dreyer, who is now deceased, went to all his neighbors and put that package of easements together. It was a huge achievement in the early 1990s, for him to do that. His daughter Susan, is currently the owner. The amendments would increase the conservation benefits in this easement by adding size and height restrictions to the permitted buildings. Although there is already language that indicates where they can rebuild or replace, it would tighten up the location language and tie-down where a permitted garage and studio could be built. The current landowners are offering the easement amendments. There are six houses on Fernald’s Point and this will be the third with an easement. The only difference on the recommendation here is Emily has not yet heard from the Town of Southwest Harbor. Therefore, we voted to recommend to the full commission that it vote to recommend to the park to accept the easement, contingent to the Town of Southwest Harbor having no objections to the amendments of the easement.
A motion was made by Ben Worcester to recommend the park accept a conservation easement amendment on Fernald Point in Southwest Harbor, contingent to the Town of Southwest Harbor having no objections to the amendment of the easement. Seconded by Ken Cline, all accepted, no opposed.
Science & Education Committee – Bruce Weirsma
Lynne Dominy and Kate Petrie gave an outstanding presentation on the education programs at Acadia. I was really impressed with the nature of the subjects that are covered and the breadth and depth in which they do it, and the numbers of people affected by it and, I think, in a very positive way. Thank you to Kate and Lynne.
We also had updates from Becky Cole-Will and Abe Miller-Rushing on the research program which, in my opinion are outstanding programs. We learned a lot and want to thank Becky and Abe.
We are extremely grateful for what they have done for us and appreciate it.
Science & Education Committee would like to recommend, for an agenda item for the next commission meeting, to have a presentation from the research staff on the effects of climate change on Acadia National Park; what they are and what you are doing to mitigate them.
[Jackie – make note on the record that on the next agenda, we will include a presentation by the research staff]
Park Use Committee – No Report
History Committee – No Report
SCHOODIC INSTITUTE UPDATE– Don Kent, President & CEO
We are glad to be back! Thirty-five days is a long time, but the staff were really helpful. We had to stay out of the building, but we were able to contribute a maintenance person to help keep an eye on the place. We are happy to be back and crossing our fingers it won’t happen again.
We have been working over the past year on building our partnership and we felt that during this period. So we are extraordinarily grateful to the park. We are extraordinarily grateful to others. We had meetings
at the Chamber in Ellsworth Town Hall and Schoodic Arts Hall. We worked at Hammond Hall, the schoolhouse, and a house we own that is usually reserved for staff. We literally did our budget for 2019 standing around a dining room table. Kudos to staff for getting us through.
FRIENDS OF ACADIA – David MacDonald, President & CEO
FOA is grateful we were not affected by the government shut-down in the same ways as the Schoodic Institute. Friends of Acadia does not receive any federal money. We send money to the park from our membership and the support we raise. We were all working and we felt very lucky. But obviously it was not the same. Our projects that we do are not the same without have folks over here at Acadia. I just want to relate what you said earlier about the relief that that side is over.
Our programs are going to be affected long-term. And I think when we hear from Kevin and his staff in June, it will be a wake –up call; not just around opening and getting ready for the season but, the great programs you heard about Bruce, are going to be affected. The transportation plan is going to be affected. The work we are doing to get kids out here in the summer and signed up for SEA is going to be affected. Those are FOA’s priorities; Wild Acadia, Visitor Experience, Youth Programs, Trails and Carriage Roads. And when Kevin says they have triage that means something is not going to get done. I fully support you for weighing in on the side of the visitor like doing what has to be done for safety and visitation, but there is another part to the park mission which is ‘to preserve and protect’. I do believe this shutdown is going to cascade into those areas quite dramatically. FOA is very concerned about that. We were hoping by this time, DOI would have signed off on the transportation plan and implementation, the wheels start to turn. That is nowhere in sight right now. Not only is 2019 not going to see any benefit from the transportation plan, I don’t know about 2020. I am not pointing any fingers or blame, but there is so much work that goes on in this park. It goes beyond swinging the gates open. I am really pleased to see the commission, and Bruce’s suggestion, about digging in to some of the issues that are not necessarily all in the headlines. I’m afraid the work the park would have been doing in January is going to come home to roost in terms of the impacts. FOA is going to do whatever we can.
non-profits, friend’s groups, and states, like Arizona and Utah, stepped in with money. We think that is a lousy model. And we want to add the margin of excellence; we want to do whatever we can to help with some of these longer term issues but, the shutdown really posed some pretty big philosophical issues about what it means to close a park or keep some gates open.
On the brighter side, one of the things we did most of was communications. That is an area where the park has increasingly asked for our help, even when the park isn’t shut down. Park staff, working with Earl Brechlin and others on our team, pushing information out to the visitors, being the website, social media, or traditional media, is so important whether the park is open or closed. We found that during the month of January when we were putting posts out, we were reaching hundreds of thousands of people who wanted to know what was going on. So I think, going forward, that communication is going to be more important than ever; out to the general public, the surrounding communities, the congressional delegation. That is where we spend a lot of time on the phone particularly with the Senators’ offices during last month. We were hearing regularly from Representatives Golden and Pingree. They want to know. This is a very important piece of their districts. And we all can up our game in terms of communicating on that front.
We did have a small success in terms of the winter trail grooming. Working with Stuart and Therese who coordinated with the regional office to execute a special agreement that allowed our volunteers to conduct grooming operations. I know some people saw that as problematic; that we shouldn’t be having volunteers out there when the park was closed but, it was a small way, the community could say, “I am helping out”. Thank you to Stuart and Therese for facilitating that.
I welcome any questions. And I really encourage the commission to be vigilant on the follow-up to the shut-down. We hope it doesn’t happen again. But the implications for us all will be felt come June. Understanding what is not going to get done is quite significant. But the good news is, the public interest in the park is tremendous. That is why our phone was ringing off the hook that month; everyone wanted to help. But understanding how the rules of engagement changed this time around; it was different from 2013. I guess it will probably be different next time too. I was reading that some parks may be trying to collect fees during the next shutdown. It is really complicated. And each unit is different. Acadia is pretty resilient but, understand, some of the longer-term priorities to preserve and protect this park didn’t get a lot of airtime or press. So let’s avoid it happening again.
Last thing, we are hiring. We usually bring on 20 or more seasonals, ranging from Summit Stewards to Trail Crews. It is a small way FOA’s process is a little more streamlined and that will not be affected by the shut-down. We have the authority to do those hires on our own. There were a couple of projects that Stephanie and her team kept going through the shut-down; a small contract at Sieur de Mont to restore the wetlands and a contract to be planning with John Kelly and Downeast Transportation on the next phases of the Island Explorer buses. That work continued because we got the green light to contract that work through FOA instead of the park service. So in small ways, we kept things moving along.
service and identify some things that we can mobilize some volunteers; like some things that will help get the park more ready, not just trails work and things like that. Things like maintenance work on buildings and such to consider.
Kevin Schneider – Thanks Mike. Absolutely, volunteers play a really important role here at Acadia. We have to have all options on the table. And expanding the use of volunteers could be one of them. Everything from helping us manage parking lots to trail work. There is a huge host of work for volunteers. We are looking at that option. We are looking at trying to utilize existing agreements we have, like Schoodic Institute for example. Schoodic hires seasonal employees that essentially work for the park. We could partner with Schoodic to use that model to bring us these other categories of seasonals that we may not be able to bring as federal employees. We are looking at all options we can with no disruption for what we do.
Jackie Johnston – We appreciate that offer.
Bob Deforest, Maine Coast Heritage Trust – I have been working with the McDuffy family on their generous donation of a conservation easement out on Swan’s Island. I would like to recognize the generosity and the quality of the conservation easement they are providing for Acadia National Park and for the surrounding community.
Jackie Johnston – Thank you, again, for your generosity.
Given no further public comments, the Commission Chair made closing comments. Please remember to send any suggestions for agenda items for the June 3rd, 2019, meeting to Jackie Johnston.
The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 3rd,, 2019, 1:00 P.M. at Acadia National Park Headquarters, Bar Harbor, Maine, as published in the FEDERAL REGISTER.
Motion was made by Ben Worcester to adjourn, seconded by Fred Ehrlenbach, and approved by all.
Meeting adjourned at 2:09 pm
Last updated: March 27, 2019