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September 17, 2018

Acadia may partner on development of affordable housing for park employees

Acadia National Park will explore whether to enter into a public-private partnership for the purpose of developing affordable housing for seasonal park employees.

The Mount Desert Islander reported that Acadia has enough seasonal housing units to accommodate 60% of the park's summertime-only employees. Superintendent Kevin Schneider said the park expects to put out a request for information this fall to the private sector, to gauge interest.

Lack of affordable housing and worker shortage often go hand in hand. Bar Harbor has an acute need for seasonal help, with 3.3 million visitors a year drawn to Acadia National Park and another 124,000 cruise ship passengers. The housing shortage on Mount Desert Island, where Bar Harbor is the hub of activity, is exacerbated by several factors. There's no development on the national park grounds, including more than 30,000 acres on MDI. There are a large number of seasonal houses, used for a few weeks or months of the year. Many of the seasonal places that were once offered for off-season rentals are now commanding more money on Airbnb, which has some 900 listings on MDI. What few houses are available on the island are unable to handle year-round workers from Jackson Lab, Mount Desert Island Biological Labs, College of the Atlantic and Mount Desert Island Hospital, among other institutions.

The housing initiative comes as the number of visitors to Acadia National Park continues to rise. According to a monthly and annual summary report posted by the National Park Service, visitors this July numbered 759,165, an increase of 15,636 from July 2017's 743,529 visitors. Visits for year-to-date in 2018 numbered 1,628,133, an increase of 49,370 over year-to-date 2017's 1,578,763.

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