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July 21, 2022

Acadia Affordable Workforce Housing Bill to Support Mount Desert Island Economy Approved by Energy Committee

Senator King, who sits on the committee, cosponsored the legislation with Senator Collins to transfer a parcel of land from Acadia National Park to Bar Harbor to address housing shortage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, today welcomed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of his legislation to create more affordable year-round and seasonal workforce housing on Mount Desert Island (MDI). As housing shortages on the island threaten economic growth, the legislation would transfer part of an undeveloped parcel of land in the Village of Town Hill from Acadia National Park to the Town of Bar Harbor for the specific development of affordable housing. The remainder of the parcel would be used by the National Parks Service (NPS) to construct staff housing to keep pace with the park’s popularity and increased visitation. The proposal is cosponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and supported by the National Park Service, the Town of Bar Harbor, and the Island Housing Trust. 

“Mount Desert Island is one of the jewels of America, and as more people from around the world look to visit this natural wonder, we must make sure the island has enough affordable housing for the workers required to maintain this global attraction,” said National Parks Subcommittee Chairman King. “From the National Park to Bar Harbor businesses, every part of MDI’s economy is currently feeling the squeeze of a significant affordable worker housing shortage – causing businesses to run limited hours, or even shut their doors completely. This bipartisan bill will directly address the housing crisis facing the community and create more year-round and seasonal staff housing for both the park and the island’s towns. Along with helping businesses hire and retain workers, it will give more of the Island’s people the ability to live and work in the place they love. New affordable housing is one of the most meaningful investments we can make in the success of the region, and I’m grateful for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s overwhelming support of this legislation – it’s a testament to value of MDI and the importance of the effort.”

“The dedicated staff who work at Acadia National Park and in the hospitality industry in the surrounding towns make it possible for millions of visitors to enjoy the stunning natural beauty of Mount Desert Island each year. Unfortunately, a lack of affordable housing has contributed to workforce shortages and created significant hardships for employees who need to live nearby,” said Senator Collins. “I am pleased that the Committee has advanced this important legislation, which would expand the supply of much-needed workforce housing on MDI, helping to ensure that employees have an affordable place to live and strengthening the economy in the region.”

Acadia National Park currently retains an undeveloped parcel (55.3 acres) in the village of Town Hill, in Bar Harbor. The 1986 park boundary act directed the National Park Service (NPS) to convey this Town Hill parcel, without monetary consideration, to the town of Bar Harbor for use by any town as a solid waste transfer station. However, this transfer never occurred, and the need for a centralized transfer station has diminished in recent years. As a result, this legislation would amend the existing requirement to address more pressing current needs, and is being introduced with full support from both the National Park Service and local officials. The Park Service could retain up to 15 acres to address its own housing needs.

If passed, this legislation would direct the NPS to work with the towns and other stakeholders on MDI to develop a plan to use the Town Hill parcel for affordable year-round and seasonal employee housing. 

A member of the Energy and Natural Resources and Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Senator King is among the Senate’s loudest voices advocating for public lands and encouraging outdoor recreation. He was recently awarded the inaugural National Park Foundation (NPF) “Hero” Award. Senator King helped lead the passage the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law; the legislation includes the Restore Our Parks Act – a bill led by Senator King – and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Permanent Funding Act. The historic legislative package continues Senator King’s career-long focus on conservation efforts, dating back to his work prior to running for elected office through his years as Governor and his service in the Senate. Over the course of his time in the Blaine House, Governor King was responsible for conserving more land across Maine than all Governors before him combined.

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