Acadia staff shortage spurs plan to expand seasonal housing

UPDATE 6/15: Retired Acadia National Park trail crew foreman cites byzantine hiring practices as reason for Acadia staff shortage.

Acadia National Park is planning to build 50 to 60 units of new housing in Bar Harbor for seasonal workers off Kebo Street, in a bid to reduce a severe Acadia staff shortage in the half-year workers.

Acadia National Park seasonal housing at Harden Farm

These existing 1960s-style apartment units for Acadia National Park seasonal employees would be built out to 50 to 60 units under a park plan for the property off Kebo Street in Bar Harbor.

Brandon Bies, deputy superintendent of Acadia National Park, said the park hired 114 seasonal workers so far this year, when it advertised for hiring 174 to work typically from April to October. Bies said the staff shortfall is coming when the park is “going to be right up there” around 4 million visits for the third year in a row, straining resources.

Bies said the Acadia staff shortage will affect rehabilitation of hiking trails and repair of carriage roads.

“Those projects are going to take longer and we are going to be able to complete fewer of those,” he told the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission on Monday.

Campground sections eyed for closures amid Acadia staff shortage

If the park cannot retain an adequate number of custodians, officials may need to close sections of the park’s campgrounds, according to Bies. “We did not have to do that this year but those are the conversations we are having,” he said.

Blackwoods campground

Might some of Blackwoods Campground’s more than 200 tent and RV sites be closed due to Acadia staff shortage? (NPS photo)

The park also has moved away completely from hiring lifeguards, he said, amid a statewide dearth of lifeguards in Maine. Instead, the park is hiring more generalist seasonal rangers with EMT and first-aid training, but they won’t necessarily be posted at the beaches, Bies added.

The Cadillac Summit Road, which currently requires a vehicle reservation, will also continue to shut at 10 pm each day. Bies said it could potentially stay open for stargazing later at night with enough staff, such as dispatchers, which are slightly below the needed numbers, Bies added. More law enforcement rangers might also be needed to keep the road open all night, he said.

Federal pay grades, limited housing restrict seasonal worker hiring

Pay is an issue impacting the Acadia staff shortage, according to Bies. Acadia National Park, for example, is advertising for seasonal laborers at $16.15 – $18.18 per hour, when some private businesses in the area are advertising on job boards for landscape or other laborers paying from $18 an hour up to $25 an hour.

acadia staff shortage

Maintenance workers, laborers and biological science technicians among the help still wanted at Acadia National Park, starting at $16.15 an hour, as seen on

Under federal pay rules, the park cannot tap funds intended for seasonal staff positions but are left vacant, he noted. The US Office of Personnel Management sets pay grades for each position, and Acadia cannot unilaterally adjust the pay outside of the range for a job, he said.


More pay would help workers pay for housing. The National Park Service offers 78 affordable rental units for seasonal employees but requires 165, Eric Stiles, president and CEO of the Friends of Acadia, told us during a May 22 interview at an event to celebrate the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton.

Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider has said that “when they give the offer to person 79, and they say, ‘That sounds great. I’ll accept the job if you can provide housing,’ that is the end of the conversation,” Stiles said.

In addition to pay and housing, Gary Stellpflug, retired foreman of the Acadia Trail Crew, told us that the “Byzantine hiring practices” of the NPS also discourage applicants. Stellpflug, who hired seasonal workers for the Trail Crew, cited rigid hiring rules.

Seasonal workers only get a six-month job opportunity and if they start late, they don’t get to work later in the season, he wrote in an email. “They are done October 15 no matter when they start, with some exceptions.”

Background checks and botched online hiring forms sometimes make people start later than planned and they still can’t work beyond October 15, he added.

Applications start in December but it can be forever to get the job, he
added. “You can walk into a construction office or Wal-Mart and know within a day or two if you have a job.”

Deputy Superintendent Bies’s announcement during the Acadia Advisory Commission, of plans to build new seasonal housing, comes after the Friends of Acadia purchased the old Kingsleigh Inn in Southwest Harbor for seasonal housing for employees of the park and partners.

Construction could start in 2024 on new Acadia housing

Bies said the park has been provided funding for design work to build out the current eight units on Harden Farm Road, off Kebo Street in Bar Harbor, across from the Kebo Valley Golf Club and next to the Holy Redeemer Cemetery. He said the park is looking to build out 50 to 60 beds at the location.

Brandon Bies, deputy superintendent of Acadia National Park

Brandon Bies, deputy superintendent of Acadia National Park, says the park is poised to draw around 4 million visitors again this year.

“We are hopeful that construction can start as soon as next year,” Bies said.

Harden Farms has been targeted for expanded employee housing since the 1960s, he added. It’s a plus that the park would be building on land that it already owns with easy access to the Park Loop Road and downtown Bar Harbor. He said it is not a location that will greatly disrupt close neighbors or single family housing.

“It makes total sense to build here,” he said. “We are super excited this is finally happening. We will meet with the Bar Harbor Town Council in the next few weeks to share plans in more detail with them and also how much Friends of Acadia has worked to support park housing.”

The park will need to connect to existing municipal sewer and water networks, he said.

The housing for seasonal workers will be needed at Acadia National Park, especially when visitation remains elevated. The park was just as busy, maybe even slightly more busy, than last year over the Memorial Day weekend, Bies said.

“In terms of the outlook for this full year, we’re going to be right up there in this kind of close to 4 million visits range probably for a little while here,” he said. “We’ll see. Some folks have said they think it might be a little lower this year but we have not seen a drastic drop in visitation or anything like that and certainly not over Memorial Day weekend.”

The park is still actively hiring in the face of the Acadia staff shortage, Bies said. He said he is optimistic the number of seasonal hires could increase a little bit. While most seasonal jobs are full-time, he said the park also hires part-time seasonal workers, but he did not specify for what positions.

Tea lawn at Jordan Pond House

The Jordan Pond House restaurant was busy on a sunny afternoon on May 31, presaging the crowds of summer in Acadia National Park.