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Acadia adds $284M to economic benefits of national parks

UPDATED 5/7/2018: Story adds a statement from Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.

Acadia National Park last year pumped $284 million in jobs and business activities into the regional economy, according to an annual report on the economic benefits of national parks.

acadia visitor spending

In 2017, 3.5 million visitors spent an estimated $284.5 million in local communities, up 4% from the year before. (NPS image

Acadia National Park supported 4,163 full and part-time jobs in 2017, down slightly from 4,195 jobs in 2016, as businesses last year struggled to find help amid a strong economy and tighter policies on hiring of foreign workers by the Trump administration.

“Acadia National Park’s extraordinary beauty and recreational opportunities attracted a record number of visitors in 2017 making it the seventh most-visited national park in the country,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “We value our relationship with the neighboring communities and appreciate the services, experiences and amenities they provide to park visitors.”

The total economic output for Acadia in 2017 was $338.8 million, an increase from $333 million in 2016.

In 2017, the year after celebrating its  centennial, Acadia contributed $284.5 million in visitor spending, up 4 percent from 2016 and up 41 percent from $201 million in 2012, according to the report.

Unveiled by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, the report comes as Acadia is proposing a vehicle reservation system for Cadillac Mountain summit, Ocean Drive and Jordan Pond that would relieve traffic congestion during peak season caused by a growing number of visitors and impose a small vehicle reservation fee partly to help raise money for increased service for the fare-free Island Explorer shuttle. The report on the economic effects of national parks also follows a decision by the National Park Service to impose modest entrance fee increases  starting June 1 at Acadia and 16 other of the most popular national parks, after an initial proposal to more than double fees caused an uproar.

acadia traffic

Accompanying the boost from Acadia visitors is the traffic, subject of a separate just-released transportation report, proposing a car reservation system. (NPS images)

 

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Car reservations among proposals to control Acadia traffic

Acadia National Park is proposing some dramatic changes to manage a sharp increase in visitors, including establishing vehicle reservations at an additional fee for Cadillac Summit Road, the Ocean Drive corridor and the north lot of the Jordan Pond House from about mid-May to mid-October.

acadia traffic

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

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 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.

While emphasizing that the sweeping proposals are preliminary and open to change, Acadia leaders, in the plan, are also pushing 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.

The park is advocating the proposals in its “preferred alternative” in the draft plan. The plan also spells out two other alternatives and a “no action” option for transportation management in the park.

The draft plan says the number of parking spaces along Park Loop Road and elsewhere in the park are not enough to meet demand. The park drew 3.5 million visitors last year and Cadillac Summit Road was closed at least 49 times because of heavy traffic congestion.

acadia traffic

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

In a letter to introduce the draft plan, Kevin B. Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park, wrote that visitation at the park increased by 59 percent over the last 10 years, drawing more and more Acadia traffic.

“The draft transportation plan is an important milestone in creating a shared vision for enhancing visitor experience, managing congestion, protecting natural resources and improving safety in Acadia National Park,” Schneider wrote. “The draft transportation plan is critical so that Acadia can continue to provide a high quality experience for park visitors.”

The release of the draft plan marks the first time the park is spelling out its preferred plan for dealing with increased Acadia traffic and crowds.

A final plan is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2018.

A 60-day comment period on the draft will be between April 26 and June 26. Comments can be submitted in writing or online at go.nps.gov/AcadiaPlan at the “open for comment” link. Continue reading

Car reservation system among ideas to ease Acadia traffic

The National Park Service is floating several proposals to ease Acadia traffic congestion and improve safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond House.

acadia traffic

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

Other key preliminary ideas include eliminating parking in the right hand lane on the one-way section of the Park Loop Road to improve Acadia traffic flow and allowing cars to enter Ocean Drive past the entrance station until certain thresholds for parking and road volumes are reached.

Under the preliminary idea for freeing up parking and ensuring free traffic flow on Ocean Drive, additional vehicles would be cleared to drive past the entrance station as capacity permits, with drivers getting information in various ways and getting the option to wait or leave via Schooner Head Road or sooner at Sieur de Monts.

The proposals are just “conversation starters” by the park service, as part of an effort to release a final transportation plan for the park in the fall of 2018. The possibilities are being aired after a summer of strong attendance during the Centennial year caused closure sometimes of the Cadillac Summit Road and full lots at Jordan Pond during busy times.

Already through September, 2.82 million people visited the park, slightly more than all of last year, which set a 20-year-high, according to park statistics. Visitation at Acadia is likely to top 3 million this year, after October numbers are tallied.

The early proposals were spelled out for the first time in a 12-page newsletter of “preliminary concepts” released this month and will be aired during two public meetings this week, Nov. 2 and Nov. 3.

acadia traffic

You can comment on alternative proposals to manage Acadia traffic as spelled out in this 12-page newsletter, at public hearings on Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, or online through Nov. 30. (NPS image)

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