UPDATE 8/29/2015: Deadline for public comment now September 30. See link below to make online comment or find address to mail in comments.
UPDATE 7/31/15: Park extends public comment period to September 16. See link below to make online comment or find address to mail in comments.
If you’ve ever been stuck in a traffic jam atop Cadillac Mountain or found mobs of other hikers on the trails of Acadia National Park, the park wants to hear from you.
In a major planning process that could help shape transportation and public access to the park for years to come, officials are holding two hearings this week to document concerns and get ideas, one at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor on July 29, and one at Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor on July 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“We are looking for public comments – both positive and negative – about how people visit the park and use the roads and trails and the carriage roads. Those are all transportation networks and they are all interlinked. We want you to tell us about your experiences, the good and the bad, and even to the point of what you think we should do about it,” said Charlie Jacobi, resource specialist for Acadia National Park, in an interview with Acadia on My Mind.
And if you can’t make either hearing, the park is taking online and written comments about transportation problems and crowds in Acadia through Sept.30.
With approximately 2.4 million visitors a year coming to a relatively small park, a 350% increase in cruise ship passenger visitation to the park since 2000, and the limits of the current parking and transportation infrastructure, the park is at a planning crossroads for dealing with crowds in Acadia.
Crowds in Acadia a problem atop Cadillac and in other hot spots
In announcing the multi-year planning process, expected to be completed in spring 2018, Superintendent Sheridan Steele said in a statement, “The plan is needed at this time because the concentrated traffic creates public safety issues, severe congestion and crowding, reduced quality of visitor experiences, impacts on the road systems, impacts on the park’s natural and cultural resources, and pressures on the efficiency and sustainability of park operations.”
Among the traffic and crowding hot spots identified in the park’s transportation planning newsletter: Cadillac Mountain, where 29 accidents involving buses or RVs have happened between 1989 and 2000 on the road up or in the parking lot; and the Park Loop Road, where as many as 500 cars – or as much as 40% more than Acadia’s parking lot capacity – can be found parking informally along the roadside during peak times.
To help focus public comments on traffic and crowds in Acadia, these 4 topic questions are listed on the park planning and comment Web page:
- What parts of your Acadia experience do you value most?
- What transportation-related issues most interfere with your enjoyment of the park?
- What transportation-related improvements would you suggest the park implement and why?
- What elements of the existing transportation system do you find helpful?
Any and all ideas are being entertained, but there are 3 things that will not happen, according to the park planning newsletter: Making the park car-free; instituting a park-wide ferry system; and raising historic bridges to accommodate buses and RVs.
Some ideas to manage traffic and crowds in Acadia already being experimented with, or floated, include: Car-free mornings in the park; a ferry to take cruise passengers to the less-visited Schoodic Peninsula portion of the park; limits to vehicles on Cadillac; expanded Island Explorer bus service; or changes to current parking.
If you care about Acadia National Park and don’t want to see it loved to death, here’s your chance to make your voice heard.