Tag Archives: acadia-national-park-advisory-commission

Maine seeks bids for Acadia National Park welcome center

The Maine Department of Transportation said it expects to break ground in 2023 on a new state-of-the-art, $32 million welcome center and transit hub for Acadia National Park and the region, marking a big step forward in a strategy to get more visitors to use the park’s fare-free shuttle and reduce traffic congestion.

Acadia Gateway Center

This design shows Island Explorer buses picking up visitors from the planned Acadia Gateway Center’s intermodal and welcome center, with a current state estimate of $32 million for the project. (NPS image)

The MaineDOT this week officially advertised for bids for a contractor to construct the national park welcome center and intermodal facility off Route 3 in Trenton about three miles north of the bridge to Mount Desert Island. The bids were scheduled to be publicly opened and read on Jan. 4 in Augusta but the bid opening was recently changed to Jan. 18, and then delayed again until Jan. 25, and postponed again to Feb. 8, according to the MaineDOT web site. The winner must agree to complete work by May 3, 2025 for the project, estimated by the department to cost $32.076 million.

Paul Merrill, director of communications for the MaineDOT,  said the department expects groundbreaking for the Acadia Gateway welcome center and intermodal facility to happen in the first half of 2023. The MaineDOT would own the project, which would be funded mostly by federal transit aid, in addition to $4 million from the National Park Service, state money and $1 million from the Friends of Acadia, a partner in planning since 2004.

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Staff deficits hit Acadia visitor services, shut Cadillac at 10pm

Citing a shortage of seasonal staff this year, the park has closed Cadillac Mountain overnight to vehicles and stopped staffing the popular Village Green Information Center in Bar Harbor, among other moves to deal with a lack of workers for Acadia visitor services.

milky way from cadillac

It’s going to be harder to see the stars from Cadillac with the closing of the summit road after 10pm through late October, while the vehicle reservation system is in effect. (NPS photo by Sardius S. Stalker)

Even the Star Party at Cadillac, one of the more in-demand events of the Acadia Night Sky Festival in September, has been cancelled “due to limited capacity and staffing constraints,” according to the festival website.

But perhaps the biggest impact to Acadia visitor services is the elimination of park staff at the Village Green Information Center, ending a longtime presence of rangers in downtown Bar Harbor during the busy season. According to former ranger Maureen Robbins Fournier, rangers sold park entrance and commercial passes, swore in hundreds of Junior Rangers every year, and helped people plan visits and Acadia hiking, among other services, with lines sometimes out the doors during cruise ship season.

“We are not staffing it this year due to limited staff availability,” Sean Bonnage, public affairs assistant for Acadia, told us in an email.  “We don’t have plans to staff it in the future, although ideally we would like to.”

The Village Green Information Center is owned by the town of Bar Harbor and is leased as an operations center to Downeast Transportation, the nonprofit that operates the Island Explorer on Mount Desert Island. It is still being used as an operations center this year, with the Island Explorer operating a full schedule for the first time since 2019, and is open to the public, only with no rangers present for Acadia visitor services. It was first staffed by rangers 20 years ago.

Village Green Information Center in Bar Harbor

Limited staff at Acadia prompted the National Park Service to decide against staffing the Village Green Information Center this summer. Hundreds of Junior Rangers used to be sworn in by park rangers at this location every year.

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Acadia airs fee for vehicle reservations on Cadillac Mountain

UPDATE: The NPS Regional Director approved the total $6 fee for each vehicle, and vehicle reservations went on sale beginning Thursday, April 1. Vehicle reservations are required for Cadillac Summit Road from May 26 through Oct. 19. 

Acadia National Park leaders are defending a proposed $6 fee for each car on Cadillac Mountain, saying all the money raised would  go back into operating a new system for vehicle reservations to improve parking on the peak.

Traffic jam on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park

Traffic jams like this one on Cadillac Mountain are a major reason that Acadia National Park is starting a vehicle reservation system. (NPS photo)

In January, the National Park Service announced that it wants to charge $6 for each vehicle to go up and park on Cadillac, the highest peak on the US Atlantic coast. The proposed fee is three times the $2 charge in a trial run of the reservation system in October and comes as the park superintendent said he expects annual visits to increase this year to at or near regular levels after dropping by 22 percent during the pandemic in 2020.

At an online meeting of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission, Acadia officials aired the fee and also discussed plans for dramatic new expansions and improvements including the Acadia Gateway Center set to open in 2024, a new Hulls Cove Visitor Center, a reconstruction or renovation of the Jordan Pond House and 21 new buses for the Island Explorer shuttle over the next five years.

Public comments on the proposed fee for vehicle reservations on Cadillac can be made through Feb. 11 at an National Park Service online site.

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Acadia among 200 federal advisory committees suspended

UPDATED 5/15/2017:  Story updated to reflect receiving statement from Heather Swift of Interior Department.

The Trump administration has abruptly suspended the meetings of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission and that of about 200 other federal advisory committees, as part of a broad Interior Department review of land use and management.

Jacqueline Johnston, chair of Acadia National Park Advisory Commission

Jacqueline Johnston, chair of Acadia National Park Advisory Commission

That means cancellation of a June 5 Acadia advisory commission meeting at park headquarters to tackle some of the most substantial issues facing the commission since its inception in 1986. And it may also affect a meeting scheduled for Sept. 11 at Schoodic.

Jacqueline Johnston of Gouldsboro, chair of the Acadia advisory commission, said she was “very surprised and disappointed” by the decision, which she found out about last week in an e-mail from Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider, about Interior’s suspension of meetings by federal advisory committees.

The order now puts on hold the advisory commission’s official work on several major topics: Acadia’s acceptance of a private donation of more than 1,400 acres of land for Schoodic Woods without Congressional approval; a controversy surrounding park policy on worm, seaweed and shellfish harvesting in tidal flats; and the park’s transportation plan.

“It’s unfortunate that the commission cannot continue at this point with the good work it does to ensure that the public’s voice is heard,” said Johnston in an interview.

nationoal park week

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, right, has temporarily suspended meetings of the Acadia National Park Advisory Commission and 200 other federal advisory committees. (DOI photo)

Acadia Superintendent Schneider shared the Interior directive with Acadia advisory commission members in an e-mail on May 9, saying that the department “has commenced a review of federal advisory committees … in order to ensure their compliance with both the Federal Advisory Committee Act and recent Executive Orders. Therefore … committee meetings nationwide scheduled through September 2017 are paused until further notice.”

In e-mailed  statement on Monday morning, an Interior Department spokeswoman called the suspension temporary, to allow Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke time to review the “charter and charge” of more than 200 federal advisory committees, including the Acadia advisory commission.

“The secretary is committed to restoring trust in the department’s decision-making, and that begins with institutionalizing state and local input and ongoing collaboration, particularly in communities surrounding public lands,” said spokeswoman Heather Swift in her statement.

“As the department concludes its review in the weeks ahead, agencies will notice future meetings to ensure that the department continues to get the benefit of the views of local communities in all decision-making on public land management.”

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