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Acadia is again short-staffed to begin the summer tourism season

National Park Service

As Acadia National Park and the Island Explorer bus system gear up for the start of another busy tourism season, both will be short-staffed again this summer.

The park has hired 115 seasonal workers so far this summer, according to Superintendent Kevin Schneider. The usual target is 165-to-175 summer employees, but Schneider said he doesn't believe visitors will immediately see much of a difference.

"Some of the trail projects that we may have wanted to have accomplished this summer, some of those may have to get pushed back to next summer," he said. "Some of the carriage road maintenance projects we wanted to accomplish, for example, those may also have to get pushed back."

The Island Explorer, the free bus system that operates throughout the park and Mount Desert Island, had hoped to hire 120 people for the season but is about 40 drivers short.

"We'll serve all the routes that we have traditionally served and all the towns," said Paul Murphy, executive director of Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer. "There will just be a little less frequency than there would have been, and we've combined a couple of routes as well."

Both Murphy and Schneider said a tight labor market, as well as a persistent lack of affordable summer rental housing on Mount Desert Island, have impacted their ability to staff up for the busiest season of the year.

"Even at $25 an hour, if you can find a place, you're likely not to be able to afford it," Murphy said. "Last year we had 10 employees that I'm aware of sleeping in their cars at night here."

Downeast Transportation increased its hourly starting wage from $20 to $22 this summer and added a $5 an hour night differential increase for those who work after 6 p.m. It also added a $50 bonus for drivers who work over the weekends, Murphy said.

The park is still actively recruiting for open positions on Acadia's trail and road maintenance crews, as well as vacant park ranger jobs, Schneider said.

Murphy said he's hired a few drivers this summer who work during the winter for Maine ski resorts, and he searches for seasonal employees as far as California.

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