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March 30, 2023

Friends of Acadia buys inn to provide housing for park employees

4 people standing on stairs Courtesy / Ginny Majka/Friends of Acadia From left, Friends of Acadia Board of Directors Housing Committee Chair Dave Edson, Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider, Friends of Acadia Board Chair Jack Kelley and Friends of Acadia President and CEO Eric Stiles recently held a ribbon-cutting in front of the Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor.

Friends of Acadia has purchased an inn to help Acadia National Park to help address a housing crisis, with fewer than 100 beds for the 160 seasonal positions the park wants to fill.

The deal for the Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor is part of a broader strategy to help Acadia address the lack of housing on Mount Desert Island. The Friends group plans to convert the inn to workforce housing for Acadia’s seasonal employees, as the housing shortage has a direct impact on Acadia’s ability to hire a seasonal workforce.

“Seasonal employees are essential to operating the park and providing visitor services in the park from May to November,” Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in a news release. “Last year, we were not able to fill all of our available seasonal positions largely because of the lack of housing options in and around Acadia. By expanding housing options, the Kingsleigh property will increase our capacity to recruit and retain seasonal staff members.”

The inn sold for $1.275 million.

“The park is proceeding full steam ahead to do some upgrades and to bring the property into the federal government process and Acadia’s housing management system,” Lori Schaefer, Friends of Acadia’s vice president of communications, told Mainebiz. “The goal is to house employees this season and we’re proceeding under that assumption.”

Though Friends of Acadia owns the inn property, it will be managed and operated by Acadia National Park in a similar fashion to other park housing. The building has eight bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms and a two-bedroom “owners” apartment, so the plan is to provide seasonal housing for 10 employees. The property will remain on the town’s tax rolls.

Purchase of the inn falls within one of several strategies Friends of Acadia is taking in partnership with the National Park Service to expand seasonal workforce housing and address MDI’s housing crisis.

“Our goal is to add 130 new beds over the next decade for the park and its partners,” said Friends of Acadia President and CEO Eric Stiles.

The organization has developed a three-pronged approach that includes adding bedrooms to park units already in use, repurposing commercial properties such as the Kingsleigh, and building new housing on sites within Acadia.

“While the permanent solution is to construct new housing units on NPS land that will be of minimal impact to natural resources or the visiting public, more immediate and interim measures are needed,” Stiles added. “That’s where properties like the Kingsleigh Inn come into play.”

The housing crisis is not unique to Acadia. It’s an issue faced by many parks throughout the National Park Service. 

Stiles said Friends of Acadia would design its investments to leverage, attract and maximize federal dollars as part of its strategy to tackle the situation.

Providing workforce housing, he added, also addresses an equity issue. 

“We’re removing a huge barrier to employment and helping to ensure that employment here remains available and affordable to all,” Stiles said.

In recent years, Acadia National Park has seen steadily growing visitor numbers. Last year it hosted 3.97 million visitors. The park also announced recently that it will start $33 million in maintenance projects

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