Acadia National Park is collecting entrance fees during the winter for the first time this year, raising more than $500,000 as of January to help retain staff and fund plowing and other winter services.
In a change that started Nov. 1, Acadia National Park entrance fees are now required year-round and the park is staffing the Sand Beach Entrance Station seven days a week for the first time in the winter. Previously, the park required an entrance pass only between May 1 and October 31 and there was no charge between Nov. 1 and April 30.
Winter visits nearly doubled over the past decade, helping spur Acadia to start charging the fees.
“We did not collect entrance fees in the winter in the past, but it has gone very, very smoothly,” Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said during an online meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission this month. “We have not gotten a lot of pushback from park visitors, which is great. People have embraced entrance fees I think and understand the importance of it.”
‘Very worthwhile’ to collect national park entrance fees in winter
From Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, Acadia collected $564,803.90 in total entrance fee revenue for winter operations, per Katie Liming, public affairs specialist for the National Park Service.
“The revenue we have collected this winter has made it very worthwhile to remain sort of in business with fee collection throughout the winter,” the park superintendent added during the Zoom meeting with the advisory commission. “By keeping our staff employed through the winter, it helps retain them as well. It’s also a good thing to help keep our staff here since they can stay working throughout the winter.“
The $564,000 in national park entrance fees from winter operations comes on top of a jump in revenues from entrance fees during a record setting year for annual visits in 2021.
Fee collection jumps with record visits at Acadia
Annual visits exceeded 4 million for the first time in Acadia in 2021, making it the sixth most visited national park in the US. The 4.06 million visits helped Acadia collect $6,594,410 million in national park entrance fees between May 1 and Oct. 31, 2021, an increase of $367,070, or 6 percent, from $6,227,339 during the same period in 2019, the year before the pandemic, according to statistics provided by Liming.
The increase in national park entrance fees was partly offset by a drop of almost $209,000 in commercial vehicle tour fees because of the pandemic.
Under federal law, Acadia and other parks that collect fees get to keep eighty percent of the money for use on an array of critical projects and expenses. The other 20 percent is used to help parks that don’t collect fees, according to the NPS.
According to Liming, the public affairs specialist, the number of entrance passes sold this winter confirms the trend at Acadia of more visitors in the shoulder season.
Increased visits at Acadia in winter help make it financially viable to collect national park entrance fees in winter, according to the park.
Winter visits to Acadia rise nearly 100 percent in decade
Over the past decade, visits from November through April at Acadia nearly doubled from 144,058 in 2010-2011 to 282,058 in 2020-2021, according to statistic’s provided by the park in October.
Revenues from winter entrance fees have allowed park staff to plow the open section of Ocean Drive more frequently this season, Liming wrote in an email.
The fees also help pay for winter operations in Acadia such as keeping open restrooms and overseeing volunteers and partners who groom the carriage roads for cross country skiing and snow shoeing. The only full service restroom open in the park on Mount Desert Island in the winter season is at the Fabbri Picnic Area, but vault toilets are open at parking lots at Parkman Mountain, Brown Mountain Gatehouse, Eagle Lake, the Eagle Lake boat ramp, the big north lot at Jordan Pond and Sand Beach.
An entrance pass is required at all locations throughout the park, Liming added. All vehicles must display a pass clearly visible through the windshield. Visitors should display federal lands passes, such as senior and military passes, on their dashboard with the signature and expiration date facing up.
Visitors can purchase a full range of entrance passes online or in person at the Sand Beach Entrance Station. Several other locations, including the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel & Event Center, the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce and the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 2 Cottage St. in Bar Harbor, sell 7-day passes.
A 7-day pass for a private vehicle costs $30 and an annual pass is $55.