Acadia traffic, need for plan, surface at Jordan Pond

Acadia National Park is planning one more public engagement session on its draft plan to relieve traffic congestion in the park, following some tense Acadia traffic near Jordan Pond on Sunday.

acadia traffic problems

A pedestrian barely has room to get by the equestrian crossing sign on the right, as he heads toward Jordan Pond House Memorial Day weekend. The improperly parked cars, seen on the left, stretched along the Park Loop Road from Jordan Pond to as far as Bubble Pond.

The 215-page draft transportation plan, which was released on April 26, proposes to create seasonal vehicle reservation systems for an additional fee at Cadillac Summit Road, the Ocean Drive corridor and Jordan Pond area to better manage traffic.

After holding five information sessions in May, the National Park Service is offering a live webinar from 7 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13 on the draft transportation plan, which proposes the reservation system as its centerpiece.

Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia National Park, said it’s been great to receive input from people at the sessions that came after the release of the draft transportation plan. She said it has been a fantastic process.

Acadia traffic problems draw many proposed solutions

“People are coming with a wide diversity of ideas and opinions about what should happen,” she said in a phone interview.

acadia traffic

Summary graphic in the draft transportation plan outlines the park’s preferred alternative for managing Acadia traffic (NPS image)

The park is planning to release a final Environmental Impact Statement by the end of this year. That document would include the park’s final decision, which could be a hybrid of its preferred alternative, which includes the reservation system, and aspects of two other alternatives in the draft.

A final transportation plan is planned to be implemented in 2020, Anastasia said.

More evidence of the need for a new transportation plan came on Sunday at Jordan Pond when scores of motorists violated park rules by parking along the two-way section of the Park Loop Road because the lots at Jordan Pond were full including the small one managed by a concessionaire at the popular restaurant and the big north lot managed by the park.

Cars parked along the loop road from Jordan Pond to the Bubble Pond parking area.

acadia national park traffic

Acadia Supervisory Park Ranger Darren Belskis tells motorists to move along, as some of them try to park along the road in front of the Jordan Pond House during Memorial Day weekend.

In an email, Anastasia said the two-way road became a “single lane from Jordan Pond to Bubble Pond” in the afternoon.

At one point on Sunday afternoon, Darren Belskis, supervisory park ranger, stood outside the Jordan Pond House, the only restaurant inside the park, and told motorists that they could not park on the road.

“Guys, you need to move,” he told people as they parked in front of him. “No roadside parking.”

Holiday and lack of fare-free shuttle contribute to Acadia traffic

The Acadia traffic tie-ups came on a sunny day on the busy Memorial Day Weekend and also before the start of the fare-free Island Explorer shuttle buses on Mount Desert Island. The buses, which offer free rides to hiking trails, beaches and other stops, start in late June on MDI each year but the draft transportation plan says the reservation system could help raise money to finance expanded service. The service begins June 23 this year on MDI, and has already begun in the Schoodic section of the park. Users of the shuttle need to pay for a park pass, even if the ride is fare-free.

acadia traffic

Despite signs that say “No Parking” and “Tow Away Zone,” parked cars in front of Jordan Pond House brought traffic to a standstill and narrowed the two-way road to one lane at times during the Memorial Day weekend.

Anastasia said there were no Cadillac Summit closures Memorial Day weekend or serious  traffic problems there. In 2017, the summit road was closed temporarily about 70 times to incoming traffic because of traffic congestion.

According to the park, parking on the two-way section of the Park Loop Road is limited to parking lots and paved and established gravel pull-outs.

The park’s live webinar on June 13 is open to the first 100 people that register and will include a formal presentation describing the plan and possible management strategies, followed by a question and answer session.

On May 22 and 23, seventy-one people attended two open houses at public schools on Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula, according to Anastasia. Park employees have compiled “flip charts” of comments of people provided at those meetings.

Also, on May 14, 15 and 16, a total of 108 people attended three informational sessions held at local libraries in Southwest Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Bar Harbor.

The three library sessions were all taped and can be viewed online on the Friends of Acadia Facebook page. The three sessions have already been viewed nearly 4,000 times according to Friends of Acadia’s Facebook page.

“We are still listening and we are only half way through the comment period,” Anastasia said last week.

Public comment period for draft transportation plan ends June 26

The 60-day comment period on the draft transportation plan ends on June 26. Comments can be submitted in writing or online at at the “open for comment” link.

acadia traffic

Draft transportation plan available for public comment until June 26. (NPS image)

Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park, will also provide an update on the transportation plan during a meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday at park headquarters, located at 20 McFarland Hill Drive in Bar Harbor. The meeting is open to the public and will include an opportunity for public comments.

In the 215-page draft environmental impact statement for a new Acadia traffic and transportation plan, the park is also proposing to eventually phase out right-lane parking that is currently allowed on some one-way sections of Park Loop Road and to build new parking areas at Eagle Lake and Acadia Mountain with new trail connections.

In its preferred alternative, vehicle reservations for an additional fee would be established for Cadillac Summit Road, the Ocean Drive corridor and the north lot of the Jordan Pond House from about mid-May to mid-October.

Park leaders stress that their preferred alternative is preliminary and could be changed. They are also calling for a comprehensive redesign and parking expansion of the visitor center and other infrastructure at Hulls Cove partly to encourage more parking there and use of the Island Explorer buses.

acadia traffic

No more U-turns near the top of Cadillac under a proposed timed entry system in the draft transportation plan. (NPS photo)

Reservations would most likely include a less than $10 fee to cover the cost of operating the system, monitoring traffic and supporting alternative transportation options such as the Island Explorer. This fee would be on top of the visitor pass. The reservations and increased fee are not proposed for many areas of the park. Visitors would still be able to access the park in a variety of ways that would not include the additional fee.

At the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the plan calls for approximately 200 to 250 additional parking spaces, in addition to the current capacity of 270.

5 thoughts on “Acadia traffic, need for plan, surface at Jordan Pond

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    Acadia National Park should be commended for encouraging maximal public input to its plans. Unfortunately they are bandaids for the wounds of the “bucket list” approach to park visitation encouraged by the Park Service. Jordan Pond is one of the bucket list items encouraged by the park administration. The others are Sand Beach, Thunder Hole, and Cadillac Mountain. Casual visitors think they have not seen Acadia National Park if they have not visited these sites. Once the visitor has had tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House; visited the summit of Cadillac Mountain, preferably at sunrise; heard the surf boom when it hits Thunder Hole at precisely the right moment; and dipped their toes into the cold ocean waters at Sand Beach after leaving foot prints in the sand to be swept away by the tide; they have “done” Acadia National Park.

    Anemone Cave was ruined by visitors when it was widely publicized. Then it disappeared from park maps and publicity and aids to access, except a paved trail, were removed. It has recovered slightly. According to material in the plan, some 37% of visitors dined at Jordan Pond House (page 65). If the restaurant and gift shop at Jordan Pond were repurposed, to fill the need for administrative space or employee housing for example, how many fewer visits would there be? and what would be the impact on MDI’s tax paying restaurants? What is the value of having gift shops at Thunder Hole and Cadillac Mountain when there are so many opportunities to purchase tee shirts in surrounding communities? What would it take to remove the elaborate structures at Thunder Hole and wipe it off the maps? Then when hurricanes and northeast storms menace Acadia’s coast, public safety agencies would not have to worry so much about thrill seekers who even expose their children to the dangerous surf.

    1. Acadia on my mind Post author

      Thanks very much for the comment and insights, Jim. People on Sunday definitely seemed to be drawn to the Jordan Pond House for popovers and lunch. You make some strong points and are thinking outside the box with the proposals to turn the Jordan Pond House into administrative space or employee housing and to eliminate park gift shops that compete with private counterparts. The park does need new administrative space. Your ideas might make some common sense, but to get them implemented, it might be like trying to push Bubble Rock up a hill. We also like your point about Anemone Cave. We did not include it in our hiking books because the cave is so fragile. Let’s hope the park book stores are not selling any hiking books that include Anemone Cave. The draft transportation plan contains some great information including the statistic you mentioned on page 65. The plan says the most common visitor activities reported were sightseeing/driving for pleasure (83%) and hiking on trails (79%), followed by walking on carriage roads and dining at Jordan Pond House (37%).

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