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Mixed views on vehicle reservation system at Acadia

A trial run of the Acadia National Park vehicle reservation system received mixed reactions from visitors, with some cheering the new requirement for reducing traffic congestion and making it easier to access Cadillac and Sand Beach and others criticizing it as too heavy-handed.

Vehicle reservation sign at Acadia National Park

Signs like this one at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center were posted at key spots in Acadia National Park to educate visitors about the vehicle reservation system.

Under the pilot, which started Oct.1 and ends Sunday, Oct. 18, vehicle reservations were required from 4:30 am to 6:30 pm for the summit road at Cadillac Mountain and from 7 am to 5 pm for the Sand Beach Entrance including access to Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and other spots along a two-mile section of the Park Loop Road.

The vehicle reservation system faced intense pressure over the Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend when some of the biggest crowds of the season descended on Acadia during sunny days on Saturday and Sunday, clogging some areas of the park. Acadia sold more than 4,000 vehicle reservations on one day alone over the weekend, according to a park spokesperson.

People with reservations praised the system because it shrunk the time to enter Sand Beach Entrance Station and the Cadillac Summit Road and took the edge off finding parking.

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Rash of Acadia National Park vandalism: Illegal blazes, painted rocks

Acadia National Park has been hit by a recent rash of vandalism by someone who has used spray paint to damage about five miles of trails on Bald Peak, Huguenot Head and Champlain Mountain with unsightly, off-color blazes.

Gary Stellpflug, foreman of the Acadia trails crew, said he is asking the public to provide possible information on the vandal, who has not been apprehended. “We’re reaching out to the public for information,” Stellpflug said.

acadia national park vandalism

Off-color turquoise spray-painted blaze, left, next to the park’s official sky-blue blaze, marred the scenery along Champlain North Ridge Trail in July. Volunteers spent hours cleaning up the approximately 50 illegal blazes on this trail by August.

The rogue blazes, mainly on boulders and rocks, were removed from Bald Peak last fall and from Huguenot Head and Champlain Mountain in August, Stellpflug said.

The illegal spray-painted blazes, including about 50 on the Champlain North Ridge Trail, come amid ongoing efforts by the park to prevent other types of Acadia National Park vandalism or rule breaking, including the knocking down of historic-style cairns , the leaving of painted rocks, which the park considers to be litter along with paper and other waste, and the stacking of rocks.

About five of the vandal’s illegal paint blazes, also turquoise and of various sizes, were spotted during a hike on Sept. 1 on trails near the Schoodic Head overlook in Acadia. Stellpflug said he is aware of the illegal blazes at Schoodic and plans to have them removed.

In early August, two volunteers spent about 10 hours using an organic solution to wash off about 50 of the spray-painted blazes on the Champlain North Ridge Trail.

During a hike in July, about a month before the Acadia National Park vandalism was cleaned, reporters found that the vandal left misshapen and greenish-blue marks on Champlain’s granite slabs and rocks. They often were sprayed, sometimes in long streaks, near the park’s rectangular, 4-inch-long official sky-blue blaze.

Stellpflug said he is hoping the Acadia National Park vandalism will stop. Stellpflug said he assumes it is the same person who is responsible for all the blazes spray painted on trails.

acadia national park vandalism

The painted rock with the words “You can do it!” (see close-up photo of rock below) was found on a large boulder on Beachcroft Path – the very same boulder that George B. Dorr, the father of Acadia, was standing by in a well-known historic photo, taken around 1940. Such painted rocks are considered vandalism by the park, and offenders could be subject to fines or prison terms.

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Acadia hiking accident is new ordeal for New York nurses

Kerrie Molloy and John Candela visited Bar Harbor last month to unwind after working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic in New York, but the longtime nurses instead faced a new crisis in a horrifying Acadia hiking accident while descending Pemetic Mountain.

Rescue on Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park

MDI Search & Rescue veteran Steven Hudson, wearing an orange shirt and white helmet, helps save Kerrie Molloy, seriously injured in a slip and fall on the west side of Pemetic Mountain. Molloy and her significant other, John Candela, can be seen below Hudson in the lower center right of the photo. Hudson and other rescue personnel are wearing masks for safety during the pandemic. (Photo by MDI Search & Rescue team member Lili Pew)

Molloy suffered three broken ribs, a punctured lung and fractured bones when she said she slipped on gravel and tumbled over rocks and boulders for about 15 to 20 feet down a precipitous section of the  Pemetic Northwest Trail in the early afternoon on July 25. After summiting Pemetic, the two experienced hikers were close to finishing their first-ever hike in Acadia National Park. Just about 0.3 mile from the Park Loop Road, Molloy said she was surprised by the treacherous terrain on that section of the trail.

“I was terrified as I fell…. I kept rolling, wondering when I was going to stop,” Molloy said in a phone interview while recuperating at her Staten Island home.

Molloy, a nurse practitioner in urgent care for Advantage Care Physicians in New York, stressed that she is grateful for the “amazing” work of volunteers with MDI Search & Rescue in carrying her safely off the mountain after completing  a rope-and-pulley rescue, responders from the Bar Harbor Fire Department and the chief surgeon at Mount Desert Island Hospital. Molloy said it’s the first time in her more than 30 years in nursing that she found herself on the other side of the table in the operating room.

Hikers on peak of Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park

John Candela and Kerrie Molloy stand on the peak of Pemetic Mountain in Acadia on July 25. Molloy later suffered serious injuries during the descent of the peak. (Photo courtesy of John Candela and Kerrie Molloy)

Candela, who lives with Molloy in a longstanding relationship, said he was hiking a little in front of Molloy and scoping out the steep section of trail for a safe way down when he heard her scream. He said he did not see her slip but he watched in fear as she bounced and hit rocks before landing on a ledge against the exposed roots and dirt at the base of a fallen tree.

“I was in shock,” said Candela, who was carrying a backpack with food and water for the both of them. “I was afraid for her because I could see that she was getting seriously hurt as she was falling.”

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Sieur de Monts Nature Center closed during pandemic

Acadia National Park during the pandemic: closures, delays

A view from Bubble Rock

A view from Bubble Rock

These stories are another installment in “A view from Bubble Rock,” a periodic collection of news items about Acadia National Park and related topics. If you have news you’d like included as part of the series, leave a comment below, or contact us through the “About Us” page.

 

 

Note: The Thompson Island and Bear Brook picnic areas opened in September 2020 after being closed during the pandemic.

When Patrice T. Robitaille, a Washington economist, returned to her native Maine, she thought of taking her 85-year-old mother to the dramatic coast of the Thompson Island Picnic Area in Acadia National Park this summer.  The family has some nice memories from the 1960s and 1970s when they would take the trip from their home in the Bangor area for a family picnic on Thompson Island or a visit to the nearby Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound.

But after driving to Acadia National Park during the pandemic, Robitaille said in a phone interview that she was surprised and disappointed to find only a locked gate at an entrance road to the island picnic area.

Known for its vast flats at low tide,  access to the shore and ocean views, the Thompson Island picnic area is located off a causeway on Route 3, about 10 miles north of the main part of the park on Mount Desert Island.

Thompson Island also has rest rooms with stalls and flush toilets and like all rest rooms, it needs to be cleaned more frequently during the pandemic. Thompson Island Picnic area is closed partly because Acadia National Park is dealing with a lean custodial staff to clean many park bathrooms and recently attempted without much luck to hire more custodians.

Parking at Thompson Island Picnic Area

The parking lot at the Thompson Island Picnic Area is empty while the area is closed during the pandemic at Acadia National Park.

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Acadia National Park during the pandemic: Masks, isolation

Facing a projected decline in visits and revenues from entrance and concession fees, Acadia National Park during the pandemic is opening the Park Loop Road to traffic and offering limited visitor services on June 1, a month and a half later than normal, and bracing for an unprecedented year.

covid-19

Acadia amid COVID-19: First in a series (NPS photo)

Acadia’s season with coronavirus will launch with a closed Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the indefinite postponement of the park’s fare-free shuttle system and a quarantine restriction that stymies most people traveling from other states.

Campgrounds at Acadia National Park during the pandemic are shut down at least through June, new signs will promote social distancing and, starting Monday, rangers will be wearing masks to provide visitor information in open-air tents near the visitor center – but they won’t be selling park passes, as visitors must purchase them online and print a copy ahead of time. The Cadillac Mountain summit is open with no virus-related parking restrictions.

In the wake of the slowest Memorial Day weekend he’s ever witnessed in the area, Fred Ehrlenbach of Trenton, chairman of the Acadia Advisory Commission, predicted that visits and revenues will be down for the national park, which recorded 3.4 million visits in 2019. He cited the looming recession and COVID-19.

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Acadia traffic shuts Cadillac, other spots 105 times in 2019

Traffic congestion forced the closure of the summit road to Cadillac Mountain 58 times in 2019 and the road to Bass Harbor Head Light 32 times, spotlighting the need for a reservation system to park at certain popular attractions in Acadia National Park.

acadia traffic

Cadillac Summit Road was closed 58 times in 2019 because of traffic, according to Acadia National Park. (NPS photo)

The reservation system is tentatively planned to start in 2021.

According to Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist at Acadia, 2019 was also the first year to see closures related to Acadia traffic at places such as the entrance to Sieur de Monts, the Route 233 entrance to Cadillac Mountain, Schooner Head Road and the entrance to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, which was closed five times.

Overall, traffic tie-ups prompted 105 closures in 2019 including three times apiece at Ocean Drive and Sieur de Monts and once each at Echo Lake Road and the Jordan Pond North Lot.

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9 peregrine falcon chicks fledge at Acadia National Park

Nine peregrine falcon chicks fledged at three nests at Acadia National Park in 2019, helping clear the way for the popular Precipice Trail to open.

peregrine falcon chick

Recently retired park wildlife biologist, Bruce Connery, holds a peregrine chick that has just been lowered from its scrape, or nest, for banding. (NPS photo)

According to Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia, four peregrine falcon chicks fledged at  the Precipice on the east face of Champlain Mountain; three at Jordan Cliffs and two at Valley Cove over Somes Sound. The total is one more than last year and about 150 peregrine falcon chicks have fledged at Acadia over the last 28 years.

The steep Precipice Trail, perhaps the most difficult trail in the park for hikers, opened on Friday.

Although annual closures at Acadia for the state-endangered nesting falcons have been lifted, the Jordan Cliffs Trail remains closed across the cliffs for extensive trail work, 7 am to 4:30 pm, each Monday through Thursday, according to Anastasia.

Valley Cove Trail has been closed since July 2016 due to severely damaged and deteriorated walls, stone steps, and tread support structures, according to the park. Planning is underway to reopen the trail later this autumn. The trail is located between Flying Mountain and Man O’ War Brook, on the east side St. Sauveur Mountain, along Somes Sound, according to the park.

The Precipice Trail, the Valley  Cove Trail and the Jordan Cliffs Trail are usually closed each year in late March or early April until late July or early August each year because of nesting peregrine falcon chicks. Continue reading

New center, buses and map aid Acadia National Park visitors

ask acadia on my mind

A view from Bubble Rock, a periodic collection of news briefs about Acadia National Park and related topics

This story was updated 7/2/2019 to reflect the opening of the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop.

This story was updated on 6/24/19 with information from a press release issued by the park on the opening for the season of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.

A major asset is back in operation for the busy summer season for Acadia National Park visitors.

The Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the main visitor center for Acadia National Park, opened on Wednesday for the first time this year after $1.2 million in renovations, according to an email from Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for the park. Hulls Cove is staffed with rangers and open this weekend.

“We are excited to open the doors to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “Visitors will experience new information desks, an expanded park store, and more restrooms.”

The contractor, King Construction Services of Jonesport, upgraded restrooms and created an improved arrangement for visitor services. The park is hoping that queuing of visitors in line will improve and visitors will move through the center more efficiently until overall issues can be addressed with a more comprehensive redesign proposed for the future.

The main visitor center usually opens April 15, but the opening was at first delayed until late May and then set for late June. Hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily until June 30, then 8 am to 6 pm daily July 1 to Sept. 2 before going back to 8:30 am to 4:30 pm daily from Sept. 3 to Oct. 31, according to the park’s web site.

The recent upgrade was funded through visitor entrance fees while interior displays and exhibits were supported through generous contributions from the park store, according to a press release. Other improvements include new carpet and a separate entrance to the park store from outside the building. Interior displays and exhibits convey real-time information on planning, several over-sized maps and a new display of pieces from the Acadia Artist-in Residence program.

Sound-dampening design and materials should help to reduce the volume of noise in the center.

Meanwhile, the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop opened on June 23, about two months later than usual. The gift shop had been closed because of ice and snow damage and mildew issues and Dawnland LLC, the concessionaire for the Cadillac Mountain gift shop, had been trying to open the gift shop as soon as possible. The gift shop has been restocked to replace damaged goods. The shop is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week and sells 7-day passes to the park for $30 per vehicle.

Acadia National Park visitor center

Hulls Cove Visitor Center in Acadia National Park reopened Wednesday after a $1.2 million renovation took longer than expected, while the Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop remains closed from ice and snow damage over the winter and mildew issues.

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Acadia National Park visitors face roadblocks to buying pass

Visitors to Acadia National Park are finding it can be hard to get there from here.

acadia national park visitors

A big orange “Road closed ahead” sign, posted at the foot of the steps at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center at Acadia National Park, warns people that the center is inaccessible during renovations.

The Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the main venue for selling park passes, could be closed until the end of June while it undergoes $1.2 million in renovations including upgraded restrooms.

Just outside the 1960s-era center, a large electronic sign warns of the closure, possibly discouraging Acadia National Park visitors from turning into the parking lot, where they might see an exhibit that includes information about buying a pass at other locations, a map or park programs. And if visitors do enter the lot, they are greeted at the center steps with a big “Road closed ahead” sign.

On top of Cadillac Mountain, the first stop for many Acadia National Park visitors, the gift shop, which also sells passes, is closed because of ice and snow damage and mildew issues. A sign urges motorists to buy a pass at the gift shop for display in their vehicles, but people walking up to the shop to make the purchase on Monday were turned away by a sign on the door that says “Temporarily closed.”

And along the main state highway that leads to Acadia and Bar Harbor, road construction, detours and one-way traffic are sometimes causing long backups and confusion. The construction, scheduled to be complete by mid-June, prompted at least one recent visitor to get lost in the dark and call the hotel she was registered at for step-by-step directions via cell phone.

cadillac mountain gift shop

A visitor on Monday peers into the window of the closed Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop, which was damaged by snow and ice this winter and also has mildew problems.

Further adding to the potential frustration this spring and summer for Acadia National Park visitors who are unprepared or unaware, in trying to get there from here:

–          New paid parking meter and kiosk system in Bar Harbor, approved by the municipality
–          Culvert replacement and other work on the Park Loop Road and related bridges
–          Intermittent closures on carriage roads for drainage work
–          Maintenance and rehabilitation of Kurt Diederich’s Climb, Cadillac West Face Trail and Valley Cove Trail
–          Random rock stacking or vandalized Bates-style cairn trail markers, which can mislead hikers

Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist for the park, wrote in an email that it has been “a challenging year” with the Route 3 detour and the closures of the Cadillac gift shop and the Hulls Cove Visitor Center.
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Car reservation system approved for Acadia traffic control

Acadia National Park is calling for some sweeping changes to relieve traffic congestion including approval of a timed reservation system at a fee of likely less than $10 for cars on Cadillac Mountain, the north lot of Jordan Pond and the Ocean Drive corridor.

acadia traffic

A timed reservation system for cars is the conclusion of the final transportation plan to manage Acadia traffic. (Image courtesy of NPS)

The plan also says that right lane parking on the Park Loop Road will be initially retained, but eventually eliminated as other options and parking become available for Acadia traffic. A park spokeswoman said earlier this year that the reservation system would start in 2020 at the earliest.

Reservations for Acadia traffic would be needed during  the peak season of the middle of June to the middle of October. The proposed fee for a reservation, which includes possible discounts for frequent visitors to the lots, would be in addition to the visitor pass.

The park says the timed reservation system and other changes would improve visitor experience and access and create longterm benefits for the local and regional tourism industry. The plan comes after park rangers closed the summit road to Cadillac Mountain 54 times last year and at least 49 times in 2017 because of traffic congestion and visits to Acadia jumped to more than 3.52 million last year, up about 60% from 2007.

The park today unveiled a 265-page final environmental impact statement on the plan, following a draft released last April.

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Acadia traffic closed Cadillac summit road 54 times in 2018

Acadia National Park rangers in 2018 closed the summit road to Cadillac Mountain to incoming vehicles 54 times because of traffic congestion, possibly accenting the need for a reservation system to park at the peak.

Acadia National Park ranger blocks traffic during a closure of the Cadillac Mountain summit road due to heavy traffic.

An electronic sign flashes “Cadillac Summit Closed,” while an Acadia National Park ranger stops traffic from going up the peak during Labor Day weekend in 2018.

The 54 closures at Cadillac occurred between June 26 and Oct. 24. The closures came as the number of visitors to Acadia in 2018 jumped to  3.52 million through November, exceeding in 11 months the 3.509 million for all of 2017, according to National Park Service statistics.

Christie Denzel Anastasia, public affairs specialist at Acadia National Park, said the park tracks the closures as best as possible and dispatchers record the closures on an Excel spreadsheet, but the numbers may not always be precise.

The summit road to Cadillac was recorded to be closed to incoming Acadia traffic about 70 times in 2017, she said.

“We can safely say that Cadillac Summit Road is the area that regularly experiences congestion, and has for a while,” she said. “But when we are able to close it for safety reasons, we do.”

The length of the closures varies from about 15 to 90 minutes, she said.

acadia traffic

Scenes like this have become all too common near the top of Cadillac as more than 3 million visitors a year come to Acadia. (NPS photo)

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Jordan Pond House tea lawn closed to diners, dogs ’til July 15

After being worn down from years of use, the famed tea lawn at the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park is undergoing a $356,000 rehabilitation, blocking people from sitting or walking on the lawn, and others from dining outside with their dog, until the middle of July.

Lawn is rehabilitated at Jordan Pond House

With the tea lawn at the Jordan Pond House undergoing a major rehabilitation, Kathy Weinstock of Newburyport, Mass., finds some rough grass to relax on, outside fencing that blocks access to the lawn project.

A contractor is replacing the sprawling lawn, installing an underground irrigation system and building a new brick plaza complete with a number of patio furniture sets for people to sit on, among other work financed by funds related to the concessionaire franchise fee.

While people can still enjoy a popover and meal inside the park’s only restaurant or catch the iconic view of the Bubbles from a big observation deck or by the shores of Jordan Pond, the temporary lawn closure is unexpected and disappointing for some, including dog owners used to eating outside with their pets.

“We were actually planning on coming to sit on the lawn to read,” said Erika Swiger, 26, a social worker from Burlington, Vt., as she and her boyfriend Harvey Vincent, 28, a University of Vermont graduate student, looked across the construction zone from the Acadia restaurant’s observation deck on a sunny afternoon in late May. “It definitely takes away from the beauty of the place.”

A longtime visitor to Acadia, Swiger likes to have popovers with jam on the Acadia tea lawn, a Jordan Pond House tradition; it was “definitely disappointing” not to be able to do so, she said. She saw no sign alerting visitors to the construction, and thought that perhaps the restaurant was expanding.

Kathy Weinstock, a 1981 graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, lay on a rough grassy area outside the construction zone while waiting for her son to return from a run. She told her son she would read a book and wait for him on the lawn but then to her surprise the lawn was gone. “I said, ‘Where’s the lawn?’ “

jordan pond house

Harvey Vincent, left, and Erika Swiger, of Burlington, Vt., try to make the best of the construction zone marring their view of the Bubbles during their Memorial Day weekend visit to the Jordan Pond House, as they waited for a table inside.

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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.

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Traffic shuts Cadillac Mountain summit road 49 times so far

The road to the Cadillac Mountain summit in Acadia National Park was closed 49 times this summer because of traffic congestion, emphazing the need for more visitors to use the park’s shuttle bus system and providing key data for a new transportation plan, according to a park spokeswoman.

Traffic congestion on Cadillac Mountain

Motorists during July 4 weekend back up on the peak of Cadillac Mountain to obtain a parking space.

Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist for Acadia, released statistics of the temporary closures to incoming motor vehicles on the Cadillac Mountain summit road that occurred between June 28 and Sept. 4.

The statistics show that 11 of the closures occurred during sunrise and 15 likely during sunset. She said the Cadillac Mountain summit was temporarily shut to incoming traffic seven times during the Labor Day weekend. When the road is shut, the entrance at the base of the mountain is blocked and rangers are stationed there.

While the fare-free Island Explorer does not stop at the top of Cadillac, the tie-ups on the mountain are a sign of the heavy use of motor vehicles inside the park, along with tight parking throughout the park during busy times. The large parking lot at Jordan Pond, for example, was also closed temporarily on Labor Day, causing many motorists to drive around looking for spots or to park illegally.

acadia traffic

Would a vehicle registration system for driving up Cadillac help ease congestion like this? (NPS photo)

“I do think It underscores the importance of the Island Explorer,” Anastasia said. “You don’t have to worry about parking your car. You get on a bus. Someone else drives. You can look out the window and enjoy the scenery.”

The statistics also help in the completion of a new transportation plan. By the end of this year, the park might release a draft Environmental Impact Statement on the plan and then launch a new round of public comments. The park is considering preliminary ideas such as a reservation system for motor vehicles to park at Jordan Pond and to drive up Cadillac, the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast with spectacular views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay.

“The fact that we are collecting the data on the closures helps us understand parking management strategies as part of that transportation planning process,” Anastasia said. The park’s dispatch office is tracking the closures in a spreadsheet, she said. Continue reading