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.
The parking lot at the Thompson Island Picnic Area is empty while the area is closed during the pandemic at Acadia National Park.
Update: In an important boost for the struggling hospitality industry in Bar Harbor, the Maine governor on July 1 exempted residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut from restrictions that require people traveling into Maine to either quarantine or test negative for the virus. The governor noted that the prevalence of the virus in these three states is similar to Maine and continues a downward trend. Starting July 3, residents of NY, NJ and the Nutmeg state join New Hampshire and Vermont residents, who were previously exempt from the travel restrictions.
A leading business group says Bar Harbor faces a “catastrophic closing of businesses” and a tourism season that is “all but lost” after a spate of new lodging cancellations caused by the Maine quarantine order and other tough new restrictions on out-of-state visitors this summer.
Acadia amid COVID-19: Another in a series (NPS photo)
Starting June 26, according to the executive order issued by Maine Gov. Janet Mills last week, people who travel into Maine and check into Maine lodging, campgrounds, seasonal rentals or Airbnbs will be asked to sign a certificate of compliance saying that they tested negative for coronavirus within 72 hours of arrival, will quarantine in Maine for 14 days on arrival, or that they have already completed their quarantine in Maine. A final certificate of compliance was released on June 12.
The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted unanimously in opposition to Gov. Janet Mills’s new “Keep Maine Healthy” plan. The chamber asked Mills to reconsider, saying her plan is unworkable and too onerous for most visitors to comply.
“With each new update to the requirements for visitors, our lodging establishments receive an influx of cancellations,” wrote Alf Anderson, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, in a message sent to the 420 members of the chamber after the board vote. “Guests who are waiting for news that they will be allowed to travel to Maine without burdensome restrictions are forced to give up hope and cancel their existing reservations.”
The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce’s website overlays a message, “Keeping Bar Harbor Safe During the COVID-19 Era,” on this otherwise picturesque scene. (Image courtesy of Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce)
Because of its more remote location on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor has an economy that depends on overnight guests including many coming to visit nearby Acadia National Park.
Acadia opened some services like the Park Loop Road on June 1 to kick off a season that is expected to see lower visitation because of the Maine quarantine order.
Campgrounds at Acadia remain closed until at least July 1 and the operation of the Island Explorer, the park’s fare-free shuttle system, which usually starts June 23, is indefinitely postponed.
Two aspects of park operations are affected by Keep Maine Healthy. First, a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors is still in effect, the park says. Second, is that gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited through August.
“The website is being worked on since the information about quarantining is a bit more nuanced now,” Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist at Acadia, wrote in an email. “We are doing our part in helping the state of Maine share information related to COVID-19.”