Max Wither raises his hand to yell through the trees to Mike Soriano as Chris Fabian mans a gas-powered capstan winch in the background on July 18, 2018. The park trail crew was moving boulders up the slope on Valley Cove Trail on the eastern face of St. Sauveur Mountain, which has been closed while waiting on needed maintenance. Credit: Bill Trotter

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are coming to visit the only national park in the state this week to learn more about Acadia’s $59.8 million maintenance backlog.

Sen. Angus King and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, along with National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith are expected to meet with Acadia officials and other local leaders and tour the park Thursday. Representatives from the staffs of Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree also are expected to attend.

The issue of deferred maintenance at national parks has been highlighted as an issue by park supporters and advocates, who say the lack of maintenance funding threatens to undermine the economic impact that parks have on the tourism industry in surrounding communities. Nationwide, there is an estimated more than $11 billion of overdue work to maintain park service facilities and infrastructure.

In 2017, an all-time annual high of 3.5 million people visited Acadia National Park, generating an estimated $285 million in visitor spending in the towns surrounding the park. That total visitation estimate represents a 6.2 percent increase over the 3.3 million visitors Acadia had in 2016 — the park’s centennial year — which was the previous largest such annual figure.

Each member of Maine’s congressional delegation, in addition to dozens of other members of Congress, have co-sponsored one of two bills introduced in each chamber — the Restore our Parks and Public Lands Act and the Restore Our Parks Act — with the hope of providing reliable annual funding to help address the nationwide deferred maintenance backlog.

Last Thursday, the House Natural Resources Committee advanced the House bill through committee. The bill would establish a fund that would direct unobligated royalties from energy production on federal waters and lands to address priority repairs at National Park Service properties as well as other federal public lands. The legislation would cap such funds at $1.3 billion annually for five years.

The Hill news website reported that environmental advocacy groups such as the National Wildlife Federation and The Pew Charitable Trusts support the House bill.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....