$71M Backlog: Funding Solutions Needed for Acadia National Park

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BAR HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - The National Park Service has a staggering deferred maintenance backlog, valued at $11 billion.

And that struggle is felt here in Maine too, with Acadia National Park facing a $71 million backlog.

The Restore America's Parks Campaign is intended to draw attention to this.

The National Park Service is struggling to maintain many of its facilities.

"National Parks are primarily funded by the Department of the Interior. So each year, Congress has to appropriate funds that are specific for maintenance projects."

Park officials say insufficient funding and staffing levels have increased Acadia's deferred maintenance backlog to $71 million. But this isn't a new issue.

"I've been on the Friends of Acadia staff for just over 20 years now and this has been an issue throughout my entire career here."

To put it in perspective, Acadia National Park has 128 miles of paved and gravel roads, 44 bridges,152 miles of trails and 620 campsites.

"The Park Service has to make difficult choices about what maintenance projects they can let slide from year to year."

In the long term, this can reduce the overall life of park facilities and lead to higher costs.

Friends of Acadia Conservation Director, Stephanie Clement says there are several solutions, including congressional funding, support from private donors, volunteer work and innovative legislation.

"There's a bill right now in Congress called the Legacy Act that would direct any unallocated revenues from offshore oil mineral leases to deferred maintenance backlogs in National Parks."

But it's far more than just funding for maintenance projects. It's staffing too.

"So that we don't just fix projects and then have them fall back into disrepair because there's no one there to fix the plumbing, to take care of the grass or the pavement, or to repair stone walls."

Nearly 90 cities and towns across the country have passed resolutions to encourage Congress to create reliable sources of funding to address the backlog.

Ellsworth and Bar Harbor joined that list last week. Park supporters hope to keep the momentum going.

"It should be a priority for our country to ensure that these resources are maintained for future generations."

As a way to boost revenue while addressing the backlog, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke implemented increasing visitor fees at 17 National Parks, including Acadia.

It would more than double Acadia's weekly vehicle pass fee starting in June.