May 05, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With housing shortages on Mount Desert Island threatening economic growth in the region, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, is introducing bipartisan legislation to help create more affordable year-round and seasonal housing on Mount Desert Island. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), 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, while the remainder of the parcel would be used by the National Parks Service (NPS) to construct NPS staff housing to keep pace with the park’s popularity and increased visitation. The proposal is supported by the National Park Service, the Town of Bar Harbor, and the Island Housing Trust.
“From National Park Service rangers to hotel staff in Bar Harbor, workers on Mount Desert Island play a vital role in our state’s economy and deserve access to high-quality, affordable housing,” said National Parks Subcommittee Chairman King. “As Acadia’s visitation rises and the need for staff to support tourism increases, it’s imperative the availability of affordable housing keeps pace. This bill will help meet growing housing needs and support continued economic success on MDI for years to come.”
“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. “This bipartisan bill 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.”
“Mount Desert Island, like much of Maine, is experiencing an extreme housing shortage. Families and future residents most greatly impacted by this shortage include the workforce that supports and creates our community. Identifying and modifying the use of this Federal Land located in Town Hill exemplifies a truly great partnership between the Park and the surrounding communities,” said Bar Harbor Town Manager Kevin Sutherland. “The Town of Bar Harbor is grateful to Senator King for his efforts to introduce this bill to assist the housing shorting on Mount Desert Island.”
“The Island Housing Trust receives phone calls and emails weekly from people looking for affordable housing – some have taken jobs here but just can’t find a place to live. When workers can’t find housing, businesses struggle to find workers, leading to businesses reducing hours or even shutting their doors permanently as we experience high visitation and high demand for services. This is a real crisis,” said Marla O’Byrne, Executive Director of Island Housing Trust. “This is why making workforce housing possible on the park's parcel in Town Hill is so important for the communities on Mount Desert Island. We need workers who provide the vital services that make a community strong and resilient, and they need homes.”
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.