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May 11, 2022

King’s Acadia Affordable Housing Bill Gets Support from National Parks Service

In a hearing of the National Parks Subcommittee, a top NPS official stressed the importance of King’s agenda for accessible, sustainable park stewardship, and touts Senator Collins’ biodiversity legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee, today led a Subcommittee hearing with a top National Park Service (NPS) official to review critical legislation designed to support America’s National Parks and the communities that rely on them – including his bill to expand affordable housing on Bar Harbor. During the hearing, King received strong support for his proposals from Michael Caldwell – Associate Director of Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands at the NPS – and highlighted why his bipartisan legislation to expand housing near Acadia National Park is vital to Maine communities.

“In 1986, the Acadia Boundary Act was passed. That was a piece of legislation that fixed Acadia National Park's boundaries as well as adding and subtracting various pieces of land. At that time, the piece of land in question in this bill was to be transferred to Bar Harbor for the purposes of a trash transfer station, but it turns out this wasn't the place for that station, and legislation was so specific it couldn't be transferred for any other purpose,” said Senator King. “This bill now replaces this use with an affordable workforce use and allows the Parks Service to hang on to 15 acres for its own housing needs…

“Co-Chair Daines and I have talked a number of times about the importance of the people that work in our National Parks. And as you know, housing is an issue because often parks are situated in the middle of high-value real estate and so housing is a problem,’ continued Senator King. “The bill that you so graciously offered your support to conveys land from 40-acres from Acadia to the town of Bar Harbor. And that in itself, the fact that the land will have no cost, will be a major support for the development of housing on that site.”

Thank you, Senator King. Certainly, we know of your interests in housing at Acadia and also the barter system. [NPS] Director Sams has consistently communicated to the field, to all employees in the National Parks Service, that employees are his number one priority and housing is very much an important part of that. Without some of the housing we have in our units, those units just could not operate,” replied Mr. Caldwell. “So we're attacking this issue on a number of fronts across the National Parks System, including new FY23 Budget requests for both the construction on NPS land and leasing and local communities of additional housing, exploring the potential for public-private partnerships to solve some of the housing needs that not only the National Parks Services have but also our gateway communities.”


Continuing his questioning, National Parks Subcommittee Chairman King received support from Mr. Caldwell for his bill with Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.) to reduce crowding on public lands and support partnerships with gateway communities. Significant portions of this bill were included in the Outdoor Recreation Act that was passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last week.

“I'd like to mention a bill introduced by Co-Chair Daines – the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act. I was honored to work with him on this bill, which will help provide support to our gateway communities that are so vital to the success of our national parks across the country,” said Senator King. “The bill will also help provide additional vital data to visitors that will help improve their experience, telling them when an attraction is especially busy, when might be a better time of the day to visit, or suggesting a nearby alternative attraction that isn't as busy at that time. Last week, the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee included a number of provisions from this Gateway Communities Bill in a larger, Outdoor Recreation Act. And I want to thank Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso for that inclusion.”

“I think informing the public is important. In the bill we talked about and passed last week, there are provisions for technology for alerting people to where parks are crowded, but the other is other regional assets that may not be national parks,” continued Senator King. “For example, in Moab you're near the Reef, certainly near Arches and other National Parks, but there's Deadhorse Point State Park, which is an astonishing place and it would be nice if there was an app that would talk about public resources within the region. I hope that's something that the department will look at.” 

I think we certainly support the spirit of making sure we're communicating and connecting visitors to those places where they go,” replied Mr. Caldwell. “This nation is blessed with some incredible state parks and I think certainly our visitors appreciate when we make those connections.”


During the hearing, Chairman King also highlighted the importance of legislation by Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) to preserve biodiversity and combat invasive species.

“Another bill we will consider is sponsored by my colleague from Maine, Sen. Collins, and it would encourage the use of native plant species within the Parks Service,” said Senator King. “Using native plants will help preserve biodiversity and increase the benefits that local flora provides to our wildlife, human health, and the environment. It will also help prevent the future spread of invasive species.”

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. In the April episode of his “Inside Maine” podcast and radio show, King highlighted the importance of National Parks and outdoor recreation with National Parks Subcommittee Ranking Member Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.); Senator King was also 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 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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