Acadia National Park temporarily closed the road to the Cadillac Mountain summit to incoming vehicles seven different times on Sunday and Monday, underscoring the need for a comprehensive transportation plan at the park, according to a park official.
Because of traffic congestion during the busy July 4 weekend, even a quieter side of the park – the Schoodic section – saw a closure for about 90 minutes on Sunday on the road between the entrance to Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) and Schoodic Point, according to a table of official road closures.
Ocean Drive, which provides access to Sand Beach, was closed a little more than 15 minutes on Monday afternoon.
John T. Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, said his feeling is that the closures are “making our transportation plan all that more pertinent.”
The National Park Service is developing a new transportation plan and considering several preliminary ideas to relieve Acadia traffic congestion and boost safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond.
The Cadillac Mountain summit attracted many visitors on Sunday and Monday, which were both sunny days following a couple of overcast days. The road to Cadillac was closed three times on Sunday, including for about 90 minutes near the sun set, when the peak is a big draw, and four separate times on Monday, including again for about an hour because of crowds during a spectacular sun set.
There were no closures on Saturday, a cloudy day, or July 4, when many visitors apparently left.
Kelly said the Cadillac Mountain summit road is closed to further incoming cars when traffic is bumper to bumper from the parking lot at the peak to the Blue Hill Overlook. The overlook is about a quarter of a mile from the lot at the Cadillac Mountain summit.
Kelly said none of the closures lasted a very long time.
“While it is a disruption for sure for the visitor, it is not catastrophic,” he said.
Cadillac Mountain summit traffic monitoring addresses congestion
If the Cadillac Mountain summit road is shut for incoming motorists, for example, there are plenty of other opportunities for enjoying the park, he said.
Kelly said the park’s four visitor service assistants, who are part of a new effort, and members of the Friends of Acadia’s Summit Stewards were very helpful in helping monitor traffic
“They were the eyes and ears for a lot of these closures,” Kelly said.
Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards, and Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant, worked together on Monday on the Cadillac Mountain summit when parking was often tight. “It’s going really good,” Ley said. “This is one of the busiest weekends of the summer.”
The Summit Stewards, which include the coordinator and 7 stewards, all financed by the Friends of Acadia, provide information to visitors, and have other duties such as conducting basic trail maintenance, repairing cairns, removing visitor-built cairns and rock art, responding to emergencies, communicating with park managers, and collecting data about weather, car and bus traffic, visitor usage, and visitor behaviors, according to the Friends of Acadia web site.
The visitor service assistants have been at work for about three weeks, and are new to the park this year, Kelly said. They are working in a pilot program to help inform and shape the park’s transportation plan, a press release said.
The most likely posts for the visitor service assistants are the Cadillac Mountain summit, Ocean Drive near Sand Beach and the big parking lot near the boat launch at Jordan Pond, according to Kelly. Their location could depend on the weather, the time of the day or the day of the week, he said.
“They are there to help guide visitors when dealing with challenging traffic or parking situations,” he said.
Other proposals for a transportation plan include include eliminating parking in the right hand lane on the one-way section of the Park Loop Road to improve Acadia traffic flow and allowing cars to enter Ocean Drive past the entrance station until certain thresholds for parking and road volumes are achieved.
The park took public comments on the early proposals for improving traffic flow. People, for example, provided ideas online and also at two public hearings last November.
The park is hopeful that various alternatives will be presented in a draft Environmental Impact Statement by December of this year.
People will get the opportunity to comment on the draft report during a second round of public meetings, or online, email or by phone, he said.
Based on that input, a final decision is expected in December of next year.
Other scenes in Acadia National Park during a busy July 4 weekend
Park rules say no parking on the Bar Island sandbar, which is exposed only during low tide. New signs warn people to be aware of the incoming tide, and list a phone number for a water taxi ride for $150 if they’re stranded on Bar Island.