Opinion

We need to keep Acadia vibrant

Acadia National Park is the crown jewel of Maine tourism and the economic backbone of the surrounding communities and our state. Generations of families have come to visit here to explore the best of our state’s treasured national park, equal parts cultural and historical as economic driver. Therefore, It is pivotal to understand that as we turn the page into the second century of the National Parks Service, that aging infrastructures continuously need more upkeep – a bill Congress has spent far too many years ignoring, that now results in a backlog of deferred maintenance estimated at over $12 billion.

Thankfully, Maine is not just home to Acadia, but also two U.S. senators who understand that the National Park System is a treasure worth keeping for generations to come. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King have joined forces with others to co-sponsor a bill in Congress that will not just address the backlog of maintenance facing Parks like Acadia, but also develop a reliable funding mechanism for years to come to ensure the parks receive the funding necessary to preserve their legacy and infrastructure.

As a business owner with direct ties to Acadia, I understand firsthand that Acadia is not just a National Park. Acadia is part of who we are as Mainers. Memories are built there, generational stories are framed there, adventures are born there, and lives are brought together in the shared experience that is its stunning landscape.

Unfortunately, Acadia and National Parks across the country have been operating on slim margins due to the backlog of funding from the National Park Service over the years. Acadia is in need of this funding to stay accessible and safe for the growing number of visitors it welcomes each year.

Acadia is also not just a “park”. Each year, more than 3 million visitors pass through to enjoy its beauty. Three million visitors, many of whom spend time and money outside of Acadia in places like York, Portland and Camden. These three million visitors spend more than 280 million dollars each year in our restaurants, taking our carriage rides, staying at our hotels and buying our gasoline. Their investments support more than 4,000 jobs, from line cooks to automotive technicians, to housekeepers, bus drivers and servers.

Those are only the jobs directly impacted however. The economic impact goes much deeper. More visitors, means more buses, which means car sales increase. Restaurants purchase more lobsters, increasing fishing activities, people come to visit and stay which impacts the real estate market and new home construction. Simply put, the impact of Acadia on our economy is staggering.

I want to applaud and give thanks to Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King for drawing attention and co-sponsoring legislation that reinstates the backlog of funding to national parks. It’s time for Congress to realize that cuts to park funding undermine the stability of our local communities where parks have consistently shown a strong return on investment. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, every dollar invested in the National Park Service generates $10 in economic activity.

There is — right now — an opportunity to ensure the legacy of Acadia and our other national treasures remain strong and vibrant for generations to come. Hopefully, Congress will take the lead from Senators Collins and King and enact the much needed budget upgrades to ensure these parks remain viable for future generations.

Kathie Summers-Grice

President, Eaton River Strategies

Manchester

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