Traffic triggers closures of Cadillac Mountain summit road

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.

Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant at Acadia National Park

Amanda Dilley, one of four new visitor service assistants for Acadia National Park, monitors a long line of traffic at the summit of Cadillac Mountain on Monday. Park officials temporarily closed the popular mountain to incoming motorists on four separate occasions that day.

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.

acadia national park

Good weather and crowds contributed to temporary road shutdowns throughout Acadia during the July 4 weekend.

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.

Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards at Acadia National Park

Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards at Acadia National Park, stands in front of a long row of vehicles parked along the Cadillac Mountain Road on Monday. Ley helped with traffic flow on the peak.

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.

Cars parked along Ocean Drive

In addition to parking lots at Sand Beach, people find spots along the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road in order to walk to the beach at Acadia National Park.

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.

People at Echo Lake in Acadia National Park

Echo Lake, a well-liked swimming spot at Acadia National Park, was so crowded on Sunday that the parking lot was full at least for a period in the afternoon.

Traffic congestion on Cadillac Mountain

Motorists on Monday back up on the peak of Cadillac Mountain to obtain a parking space.

Cars in line at Sand Beach Entrance Station

Cars queue up in front of the Sand Beach Entrance Station on July 4 at Acadia National Park. Overcast skies and the next day being a workday helped keep the crowds down a little.


5 thoughts on “Traffic triggers closures of Cadillac Mountain summit road

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  4. Jeanette Matlock

    Lots to comment on here. Be forewarned – this is going to be the rough & ugly truth, folks. Probably preaching to the choir here. Feel free to pass on to others who may need to read it & not recognize themselves.
    1. Loved the video of clueless people who park on the sand bar & shore leading to Bar Island & the idiot who tried to drive on the sand bar across to the island despite the large amount of people walking. The stupidity & selfishness of people never ceases to amaze me. Loved the heavy vehicle that got stuck. Looked like one of the local mini tour busses, which means the driver should know better. We stayed at the Harborside in October 2016 and had a room that gave us a full view of Bar Island & the sand bar. It was the best show around. It was absolutely fascinating as we sat on our balcony & watched as the tide started coming back in as people waited until the last possible minute to return. (it was also getting dark earlier in the evenings then as well.) One young lady made her male companion actually pick her up & carry her over a portion where the water had already cut the sand bar in half so she wouldn’t get wet! Saw a family with small children who almost didn’t make it back across. Could that be considered child endangerment?! Saw several vehicles at different times & days drive over & then realize there was no place for them to go once they got over to the island. (Too lazy to walk! FYI – there are thick pole barriers to keep cars from driving up the trail. Yes, trail, NOT road.) Saw at least 2 of those vehicles make the return trip almost too late & had to drive through water that had already covered a portion of the sand bar. (Obviously, these drivers don’t realize how corrosive salt water can be to metal.) Suggestion: Perhaps posting & enforcing fines for parking on the sand bar. Post No Driving Allowed across the sand bar sign & enforce really hefty fines for those that do it; might stop or at least slow the number of incidents. A burden, but perhaps necessary need for the City of Bar Harbor or the National Park Service. Sad, but true that despite posted signs prohibiting parking, people when not supervised by some authority figure, will almost always chose to do what is not right, but serves their convenience. I lived in Maine as a child & have an abiding respect for the power of the ocean & tides. Don’t know why other people can’t educate themselves & exercise the same respect & common sense.
    2. Overcrowding – I avoid Acadia during high season & holidays. Planning is the key.
    3. Parking – Last fall when we visited, I could see the visible damage to grass on the shoulders of the road where parking is permitted. NO PARKING means NO PARKING! I have also seen cars stopped/parked in the left thru lane even in areas where parking is allowed in the right lane.
    My suggestions for controlling parking & overcrowding –
    A. Off-site parking lots & busses that run throughout the park to the most popular spots. Think Islander Explorer on a bigger scale. Maybe give a slight discount on park entrance fee to people who park off site, like for bike riders & walkers/hikers.
    B. Limiting or banning the number of large tour busses.
    C. Enforcing fines for illegal or improper parking. I know this would put a burden on park rangers so maybe hire a special task force that only does this.
    D. During summer & other peak times, a park committee decides ahead of season what the limit of number of vehicles entering the park will be on any given day (based on past attendance records) & market heavily to let public know it will be enforced & encourage planning visits ahead to visit on lesser crowded days or come early in the day before total admission numbers are met or visit late afternoon.
    4. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – People need to remember – Acadia is NOT Disney World/Disneyland or any theme park! I have witnessed too many people who think & treat it like it is, which is a shame. Acadia & other national & state parks are NATURE – a gift to be enjoyed, yet preserved & cared for so it can be enjoyed by others for generations. Don’t expect every modern convenience either. If that’s the experience you need, then maybe this isn’t the place you want to visit.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Hi Jeanette, thanks for those thoughtful comments, as always. We, too, have seen too many people risk getting stranded by the tide on the sandbar to Bar Island, and wonder if there is something more than can be done, both to protect visitors and minimize the need for “rescue” efforts. As you say, Acadia is not Disney, and people have to respect nature and others’ desire for peace and quiet. Hopefully some of what the park is researching by way of a transportation plan will help address some of the issues related to overcrowding and traffic. Even though we have visited Acadia during some of the busiest times, we have been fortunate in being able to still find solitude. May you always find solitude when you visit Acadia as well. Thanks again for the comment.

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