Tag Archives: island-explorer

Physically disabled persons praise, question access to Acadia

During a recent visit to Acadia National Park, Shirley Beck, who has multiple sclerosis, said she was “very pleased” to find a paved path that allowed her to reach a viewing platform at the Cadillac Mountain summit with her light three-wheel electric scooter.

Shirley Beck, a pediatric physical therapist, on the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Shirley Beck, a pediatric physical therapist from Arlington, Va., who has multiple sclerosis, or MS, said she was very pleased to find a paved path that allowed her to reach a viewing platform at the Cadillac Mountain summit with her small electric scooter.

“It’s pretty good,” said Beck, a pediatric physical therapist from Arlington, Va., after taking in the sweeping vista of Frenchman Bay, islands and distant summits on the mainland.

Beck said she is grateful to Acadia officials for making the peak of Cadillac accessible and praised them for building the pink-granite path for physically disabled persons.  Before reaching the viewing platform, the path loops around steps and directly passes by a plaque of the first National Park Service director, Stephen Mather, who was periodically disabled by manic-depression, and was a contemporary of Acadia founder George B. Dorr, who became blind in his later years.

Beck, who visited Acadia while traveling with her husband, Roy, on a cruise ship, said she was not able to get quite as full of an experience at another key Acadia landmark, Thunder Hole. An accessible ramp leads to the upper viewing area of Thunder Hole for physically disabled persons, but not down to the lower area next to the sea cavern itself.

“The path was easy to use that got me part way down,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “I’m not sure how they could provide a way to get farther than that.”

While Beck only visited Acadia briefly, her experience was similar to that of some other physically disabled persons who travel to the Maine national park.

Acadia National Park has 45 miles of even-surface carriage roads,  trails, sites and facilities that are available to wheelchair users but others that are not wheelchair-accessible such as Sand Beach, which is below a high bluff and does not have a ramp for physically disabled persons. Citing the terrain, the park service has determined that it is not feasible to build ramps down next to Thunder Hole itself or to Sand Beach.

Stairs to Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

These upgraded cement stairs provide the main access to Sand Beach, but are too difficult to navigate for many disabled people, such as Helen Franke of Wellington, Fla, who uses a cane and was stymied at the top.

But Helen Franke, a retired college administrator from Wellington, Fla., said she believed a gradual ramp at Sand Beach might be possible to accommodate physically disabled persons. “For something like this, I think they could,” she said, after stopping at the top of the stairs with a cane she needs to use.

Across the nation, access for people with disabilities is a key issue in outdoor recreation including the 59 national parks, which are required by the federal Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) to adopt accessibility standards for the design, construction, and alteration of facilities covered by the law.

About a month after he was confirmed this year as U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke said in a release that “it’s time to start thinking about accessibility and infrastructure” and that “we will remain focused on increasing access” for physically disabled persons and other people with disabilities in national parks. Continue reading

7 ways for a stress-free visit to Acadia National Park

Last year, so many people visited Acadia National Park – more than 3 million – that the road to Cadillac Mountain had to be closed 12 times, and the Park Loop Road to Sand Beach, twice.

acadia traffic

Hopefully new parking attendants on top of Cadillac in 2017 will make for a stress-free visit to Acadia. (NPS photo)

Maybe the crowds were larger than usual in 2016 because of the Acadia Centennial, and maybe park plans to have parking attendants on top of Cadillac this year will help. With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of the busy summer season, it’ll surely help to know these 7 ways for a stress-free visit to Acadia National Park.

1) Buy your Acadia National Park pass online, go early or late to the main Hulls Cove Visitor Center, or get the pass at one of the other local sites. New this peak season: Do not go to the park headquarters on ME 233 to buy your pass, since you’ll just be directed to the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. The surest way to start off a stress-free visit to Acadia: Don’t get in a long line to get a park pass. Online, you can buy the usual 7-day Acadia pass or even the annual park pass. If you’re age 62 or older, you can buy the lifetime Senior Pass for $10 in advance at a participating federal recreation site near home, or via mail, before the price is slated to go up to $80 on Oct. 1. Hulls Cove is open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in May and June, and after Labor Day through October, and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. July through Labor Day. And there are plenty of other local sites you can buy a pass at, as listed on the park’s Web site:

acadia

The online pass was developed by NIC Inc. and the National Park Service. Or you can buy a pass in the park or at area locations. (Image courtesy of NIC Inc.)

  • Bar Harbor Village Green Information Center – late May to Columbus Day, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Thompson Island Information Center – early May to mid-October, hours vary
  • Sand Beach Entrance Station
  • Blackwoods Campground
  • Schoodic Woods Campground
  • Schoodic Institute, Rockefeller Hall
  • Seawall Campground
  • Cadillac Mountain Gift Shop
  • Jordan Pond Gift Shop
  • Mount Desert Town Office
  • Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce
  • Southwest Harbor / Tremont Chamber of Commerce
  • L. L. Bean in Freeport, ME

Continue reading

Where’s bus to Jordan Pond House? Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Bubble Rock in Acadia National Park helped prove the Ice Age

Ask Acadia on My Mind!

Another in a series of “Ask Acadia on My Mind!” Q&As

If you have a question about Acadia National Park on your mind, whether you’re a first-time visitor or long-time fan, leave a comment below, or contact us through the About us page. We may not be able to answer every question, or respond right away, but we’ll do our best. See our new page linking in one place all the Q&As.

Wondering about taking the L.L. Bean bus to Jordan Pond House. Do we book ahead? We will be there on 9/21/15. Fees for seniors and where would we board the bus? Thank you. – Nancy Murphy

Dear Nancy,

Thank you for your question, and for visiting Acadia National Park car-free!

The good news is that the Island Explorer – as the bus partly funded by L.L. Bean is known as – is fare-free and requires no reservation, although visitors should pay for a park pass to help defray costs.

Lifetime Senior Pass Acadia National Park

US citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over can get a lifetime Senior Pass for $10. (NPS photo)

Even better news for you: There’s a lifetime $10 Senior Pass for US citizens and permanent residents age 62 and older, giving free entrance for the pass holder and a limited number of companions, to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including Acadia National Park.

So if you already have the Senior Pass, there’s no need to get a separate Acadia park pass. And if you don’t have one yet, it’s easy to get one before you leave home. Or once you’ve arrived at Acadia, it can be purchased either at the main Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the Village Green Information Center or the park headquarters on ME 233.

Taking the bus to Jordan Pond House is easy, too: There are two bus lines that go there, the Loop Road route that originates at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, and the Jordan Pond route that goes between Bar Harbor Village Green and Northeast Harbor. You can hop on and off either bus at any of the stops, and you can even ask the bus driver to make a special stop along the way, if it is safe to do so. Continue reading

To be footloose and fancy-free, car-free and carefree in Acadia

Imagine being able to walk or run the Park Loop Road of Acadia National Park, or bike the Cadillac Mountain Road, and take in the magnificent scenery without worrying about watching out for cars.

cadillac mountain road

Cars ride off into the sunset on Cadillac Mountain Road. They won’t be allowed on the road on a couple of car-free Saturday mornings, in an Acadia National Park experiment to encourage bikers, hikers and others enjoying non-motorized activities.

Visitors can do just that on the mornings of Saturday, May 16, and Sept. 26, up until noon, in an experiment by the park service to encourage more people to experience Acadia on foot, bikes, roller blades or skateboards, as well as to help inform development of a transportation plan to ease park congestion.

Another added enticement: No park entrance fee will be charged the morning of May 16, and the whole day of Sept. 26, National Public Lands Day, will be free.

While the concept of experiencing Acadia car-free seems foreign in today’s car-dominated society, in the days of old, rusticators – or summer residents, tourists and artists – would think nothing of walking 5, 10 or 15 miles in a day, from village to mountains to shore and back.

In fact, many of Acadia’s footpaths were built in the late 1800s, early 1900s, with connector trails linking to the villages of Bar Harbor, Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor. Experiencing Mount Desert Island on foot was such a part of the lifestyle then, that some summer residents actually opposed construction of the Park Loop Road for automobiles. John D. Rockefeller Jr. helped fund construction of the Park Loop Road to keep automobiles off the carriage roads, which he’d built for horse and carriage use.

Island Explorer bus in Acadia National Park

While the Island Explorer bus is fare-free, be sure to get an Acadia National Park visitor pass to help support that and other park services. (NPS photo)

With the Acadia Centennial in 2016, perhaps these new car-free mornings, along with the fare-free Island Explorer bus, refurbished village connector trails and other initiatives, can be viewed as part of a larger plan to reconnect visitors and area residents to a simpler, less traffic-congested time, and more directly with nature and the beauty of Mount Desert Island.

In that spirit, here’s a roundup of some of the many ways to experience Acadia car-free, whether in getting to Acadia via public transportation, going by foot from village to shore, or creating unique trips using the Island Explorer bus, among other options. You don’t need to rely on a special car-free Saturday during the shoulder season to harken back to less hectic times. Continue reading

Acadia’s Island Explorer carries record 503,000 passengers

Acadia National Park and supporters appear to be succeeding in their campaign to persuade visitors to leave behind their cars when they enter the park.

Island Explorer bus in Acadia National Park

While the Island Explorer bus is fare-free, be sure to get an Acadia National Park visitor pass to help support that and other park services. (NPS photo)

According to new federal statistics, the Island Explorer, the park’s fare-free shuttle system, carried a record 503,224 passengers in 2014. It was the first time the system cracked 500,000 passengers for its estimated 3.5-month season of operation.

“The bus ridership was way up this year,” said Stuart West, chief ranger for Acadia National Park, in an e-mail. He referred questions about Island Explorer numbers to Paul Murphy, general manager for Downeast Transportation, Inc., which runs the Acadia bus shuttle.

The numbers for the bus system came as the Maine national park is on pace to attract about 2.7 million visitors this calendar year, the most in nearly 20 years, the federal statistics said.

The bus passenger statistics, made available on Tuesday on a National Park Service web site, show that passengers on the shuttle system increased by about 15 percent from 438,737 in 2012.

Island Explorer operates from late June through Columbus Day. The propane-powered buses have run since 1999, or 16 years, carrying 141,000 riders the first year. Continue reading