Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will visit Acadia to highlight planned park improvements

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Jun. 16—Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is scheduled to visit Acadia National Park on Friday, becoming the first Cabinet secretary to visit Maine since President Joe Biden's January inauguration.

Haaland is expected to highlight how the park will benefit from the Great American Outdoors Act and other federal investments. She'll appear with Gov. Janet Mills and Maine's entire congressional delegation.

The Great American Outdoors Act will help provide funds to make infrastructure improvements at national parks and other public federal lands nationwide, including the construction of a new maintenance building at Acadia National Park. The project is expected to cost $27 million, Acadia officials have said. They hope to have a building design selected by the end of 2021 and to break ground on the project in the spring of 2022.

In addition to highlighting park infrastructure investments, Haaland is expected to meet at Acadia with representatives of federally recognized tribes in Maine. Haaland is the first Native American to serve in a presidential Cabinet.

Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, appeared remotely to give the commencement address at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor on June 5.

Haaland was formerly a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New Mexico and served on the House Committee on Natural Resources. She was one of the first two Native American women to serve in Congress, and was known as a strong critic of oil and gas drilling and a political progressive who supports the Green New Deal.

The Interior Department that Haaland now leads manages about a fifth of all land in the U.S., and it includes the National Park Service, which also manages the 87,500-acre Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in the Millinocket region.

Haaland won't be the first Interior secretary to visit Acadia. David Bernhardt, who led the Interior Department under Trump, visited the park in 2019. Sally Jewell, who led the department under President Barack Obama, visited Acadia in 2014.

Acadia's existing maintenance building, located at the park's headquarters on Route 233 in Bar Harbor, was built in the mid-1950s and is "beyond repair," Keith Johnston, the park's head of maintenance, has said. For decades, it got little attention, to the point that masonry blocks that hold the walls up have turned back to sand in many places, and the building has a crack that "runs down the middle of it from one end to the other," Johnston said in 2018.

In 2013 the roof on the long low building — which is a series of rooms or garage bays laid out in a line — was determined to be structurally insufficient for supporting heavy snow.

The Great American Outdoors Act, which was approved by Congress last year and signed into law by then-President Donald Trump, is expected to provide funding to address the maintenance backlog at federal public lands through 2025. Among other improvements at Acadia that park officials plan to fund through the act is a $7 million project to replace water and wastewater lines at Schoodic Point, where the park's Schoodic Education and Research Center operates at the site of a former Navy base.

Acadia officials also hope to use funds authorized by the act to repair the roof of Rockefeller Hall and other roofs at the SERC campus, and to rehabilitate the Schoodic Shores campus housing, according to Christie Anastasia, spokesperson for the park.

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