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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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Maine Strong! Virtual race with medal aids MDI, Millinocket

With businesses and non-profits hurt and tourism down from Mount Desert Island to Millinocket as this summer ends, a new Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race links people from around the world in support of the regions, behind the rallying cry of Maine Strong!

virtual race with medals

Made by the same company that makes the MDI and Boston Marathon medals, this virtual race medal features a sparkly red border and heart and glittery white ribbon. Sign up now to earn the right to this Maine Strong medal. (Image courtesy of Ashworth Awards)

Featuring fundraising for area charities, a special “Maine Strong” award with sparkly ribbon, and support of local businesses, the new virtual race with medal is also a special way to mark Maine’s 200th anniversary for those who can’t visit Vacationland in real-life this pandemic year:

Embedded in the 240.1-mile virtual race route are pop-up photos of Acadia’s 26 peaks and Schoodic and Isle au Haut sections; some of Maine’s iconic lighthouses; stops along a virtual Stephen King tour; the Paul Bunyan statue in Bangor; the Liberty Ship Memorial in South Portland; and hair-raising views from Knife Edge on the way up to the finish atop Katahdin.

Sign up today. As the virtual edition of the 2020 Sea to Summit Series, co-sponsored by Acadia on My Mind and runmdi.org – organizers of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half (originally scheduled for Oct. 18, but now cancelled) and Millinocket Marathon & Half (still slated to be run Dec. 5 as of this writing) – this virtual race with medal also includes the entire real-life routes of those events.

And as a show of unity with another real-life race cancelled this year, the virtual race takes a special detour to include the Boston Marathon route. Although the virtual race is not connected with the Boston 26.2-miler, Crow Athletics, the sponsoring club for the real-life MDI and Millinocket races, also hosts a Boston New Years Run, with the 17th edition scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021 – Maine Strong! Boston Strong!

virtual race with medals

You can backdate miles to Aug. 9, no matter where in the world you log them, and see your avatar move along the virtual race map. Register here. (Image courtesy of Racery)

Since 2017 the virtual race has raised more than $1,800 for charity, with hundreds of participants from around the world, ages 10 to 70+, logging a total of more than 190,000 miles on the virtual race maps, by running, walking or hiking anywhere in the world. And to broaden the appeal for more participants, the 2020 Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race includes for the first time an activity conversion calculator for bicycling, swimming, yoga, calisthenics, tai chi, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing (as the virtual race goes through Dec. 31).

This year’s charities: Friends of Acadia, Millinocket Memorial Library, Our Katahdin and Mount Desert Island Marathon. At least 5% of gross proceeds from the virtual race with medals will go to these 501(c)(3) charities.

And because Maine Strong! is the rallying cry, and local businesses from Acadia to Katahdin are hurting from the pandemic, we invite area restaurants, lodging operators and retailers to let virtual racers and readers of this blog know how they can be supported, by commenting at the bottom of this blog post with links to their business.

With the cancellation of the real-life MDI Marathon & Half in October, and even if the real-life Millinocket Marathon & Half, slated for Dec. 5, can’t go on, perhaps some of the runners and spectators who would have come for those events can still keep their reservations, following pandemic safety protocols, or buy gift certificates to be used when they attend a future race.

In fact, that’s what we intend to do, and we invite you to do the same – Maine Strong!

virtual race with medals

Detail of the Maine Strong glittery ribbon. (Image courtesy of Ashworth Awards)

virtual race with medals

No matter where in the world you log your running, walking or hiking miles, your virtual race avatar starts on the top of Cadillac, then advances over the remaining peaks of Acadia, before jumping to the MDI Marathon course, during the first 2 of 10 segments in the Acadia to Katahdin Virtual Race. Register here. (Image courtesy of Racery)

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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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Stone stairs hug a giant cliff along the Valley Cove Trail in Acadia National Park

Acadia hiking boosted by new rock steps, innovation, lights

The Valley Cove Trail is set to soon reopen for a summer Acadia hiking season for the first time in five years, following an extensive rehabilitation that gives new life to the historically important trail along Somes Sound.

Somes Sound in Acadia National Park

Hikers can get this view of Somes Sound from the Valley Cove Trail, opening after a major rehabilitation by the Acadia trails crew.

Gary J. Stellpflug, foreman of the Acadia trails crew, which did the work, summed up the completion of the complex and lengthy project, which included resetting or adding more than 300 stone steps along the trail.

“Valley Cove Trail finally opened!” exclaimed Stellpflug in his annual report for “Acadia Trails Forever,” a special endowment fund for trail maintenance and restoration at Acadia National Park started in 2000 by the Friends of Acadia and the park.

The Valley Cove Trail was finished and opened on Nov. 1, but to protect nesting peregrine falcons, it closed in March, as it does each year along with several other trails, including the Precipice and Jordan Cliffs Trail. The trails usually open in early August after chicks fly.

The improvements on the Valley Cove Trail, originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s, top a list of Acadia hiking trails rehabbed in 2019 and open for hikers in 2020 including Seaside Path, Bass Harbor Head Light and Kurt Diederich’s Climb.

Acadia hiking trails, totaling about 155 miles, remained open during the pandemic and use picked up after the Park Loop Road opened on June 1.  More hikers hit the park trails after Maine exempted tourists from five states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, from requirements to quarantine or test negative for the virus, according to reports on the Acadia National Park Hiking Facebook group.

Seaside Path in Acadia National Park

Hikers take a Sunday stroll during the pandemic on a newly-improved section of the Seaside Path in Acadia National Park. The wooded 19th-century path connects the Jordan Pond area to a beach at Seal Harbor.

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Rescue on Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park

Acadia during the pandemic: crowds, rescues, no camping

Acadia National Park saw a sharp drop in visits in June, but crowds are steadily returning to Acadia during the pandemic, with rescues of hikers and recent closures to relieve traffic on Cadillac underlining plans for a dry run of a vehicle reservation system in October, Superintendent Kevin Scheider said this week.

acadia national park during the pandemic

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

The test of the reservation system, announced before the pandemic struck, is scheduled for Oct. 1 to Oct. 18 and will require people to make reservations to drive and park at two locations –  Cadillac Mountain and past the Sand Beach Entrance Station to Ocean Drive and Sand Beach, Schneider said.

“With the pandemic in many respects I think it is going to be an even better year to do it,” Schneider said.

He said several other parks are using reservation systems this summer during the pandemic. To manage congestion, prevent crowding and achieve social distancing, Rocky Mountain and Yosemite national parks started vehicle reservation systems and Zion National Park is requiring new tickets on shuttles.

To access those two areas in Acadia during the dry run, the park will soon release information about how people can make reservations  at recreation.gov, the same online system currently used for reservations at National Park Service campgrounds and vehicle reservation systems at other parks, he said.

During a “Community COVID-19 Forum,” a Zoom webinar by the town of Bar Harbor, Schneider said online entrance pass sales have doubled this year for Acadia. He also discussed the closed Blackwoods and Schoodic Woods campgrounds, which on Wednesday were declared shut down by the NPS for all of 2020, dashing hopes they could open as early as Aug. 1.

The park’s two other campgrounds, Seawall and Duck Harbor on Isle au Haut, were earlier announced as not opening this year. As a reason, Schneider referred to the park’s shortage of custodians to clean bathrooms and the large number of people who share a bathroom at a campground.

schoodic woods

No camping at Schoodic Woods or any of the other Acadia campgrounds this year. (Image courtesy of Recreation.gov)

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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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Maine quarantine order, virus testing nix Acadia vacations

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.

covid-19

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.”

acadia amid covid-19

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.”

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Maine quarantine order rocks Acadia vacations, life on MDI

UPDATED 6/9/2020: Gov. Janet Mills announced on June 8 a draft “Keep Maine Healthy” plan to provide an alternative to the 14-day Maine quarantine for out-of-state visitors, summary and links to the draft plan below. You can certify you received a negative COVID-19 test no earlier than 72 hours before your visit instead of quarantining on-site for 14 days, beginning July 1, according to the draft. Out-of-state day trippers or through travelers from New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from all quarantine or negative COVID-19 test requirements immediately, and for Maine lodging beginning June 12.

For Deni Farr, who lives in a small town in South Carolina, it’s been an emotional roller coaster to plan an Acadia National Park visit during a Maine quarantine order, with ups and downs that often left her drained and unsettled.

covid-19

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

Maine is requiring out of state tourists to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, and that is unrealistic for most short-term visitors like Farr. The quarantine is discouraging many and creating uncertainty and new doubts about vacations at Acadia National Park, which opened the Park Loop Road to traffic on June 1.

Last August, Farr and two friends reserved a cottage at Hutchins Cottages at Acadia in Southwest Harbor for a trip in June, but they just canceled those plans on advice of the owner. They now are booked for July when there is a chance the Maine quarantine order will be lifted or eased to allow outdoor activities like Acadia National Park hiking.

Deni Farr, shown while visiting Acadia National Park

Deni Farr with a canine friend, is shown while waiting for the fare-free shuttle Island Explorer during a 2016 visit to Acadia National Park. (Photo courtesy of Deni Farr)

It was upsetting to kill their initial plans, Farr said. All three women basically just want to hike and June would be be perfect for hiking in the only national park in the Northeast, she said.

“It’s been stressful,” said Farr, of Bluffton, South Carolina. “Are we going? Are we not going?”

The women switched car rental and plane tickets a couple of times and wrestled with packing toilet paper, food and spices to cope with the limits of the quarantine. They asked for a rental car with Maine license plates because of reports that some people in Maine are harassing outsiders.

Because people traveling into the state must comply with the Maine quarantine in an executive order by Gov. Janet Mills, Farr and thousands of others are changing or altering their plans for a vacation. The quarantine order, part of the effort to fight the spread of coronavirus, only allows people to leave isolation basically for medical reasons.

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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 National Park navigates new era for iconic lighthouse

Acadia National Park is poised “any day now” to take over the vacant Bass Harbor Head Light Station, setting the stage for a new era for the iconic lighthouse, one of the most popular attractions within the park’s boundaries.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse in Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park will be assuming ownership of Bass Harbor Head Light from the Coast Guard “any day now.” (Photo courtesy of Greg Saulmon)

Ahead of becoming the new owner, Acadia is weighing recommendations in a new study of Bass Harbor Head Light by the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Training Center. The “Bass Harbor Head Light Station Historic Structure Report,” produced with funds donated by the Friends of Acadia, is aimed at guiding future rehabilitation and repair work at the 2.75-acre complex including the original 1858 lighthouse with its cylindrical brick tower, the 1858 keeper’s dwelling, and the 1905 wood-frame garage.

The Coast Guard currently owns the iconic lighthouse and other structures and has been planning to transfer it to Acadia since 2017.

acadia annual pass

So picture-postcard perfect is Bass Harbor Head Light, it graces this year’s $55 Acadia annual pass. (Image courtesy of NPS)

“Apparently, all the paperwork is sitting with the General Services Administration and they need to do sort of the final paperwork to get it to us,” John T. Kelly, management assistant for Acadia National Park, said. “It should have happened a long time ago. It is really any day now but we have been saying any day now for months.”

When it assumes ownership, the National Park Service is hopeful of finding a partner to staff, operate and maintain the lighthouse and other buildings, maybe, for instance, a nonprofit group such as Eastern National, which promotes education of National Parks with books, other products and services, or the Tremont Historical Society, Kelly said.

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Acadia parking reservation system advances amid pandemic

Update: Acadia National Park announced in early August that a pilot for the vehicle reservation system will be held from Oct. 1 to 18 of 2020. Reservations, costing $2 for each vehicle in addition to regular park pass, need to be made online at recreation.gov to enter Sand Beach Station from 7 am to 5 pm and Cadillac from 4:30 am to 6:30 pm from Oct. 1 to 18.  A specific parking spot is not guaranteed but the plan is to guarantee a parking spot somewhere within the reserved area for each vehicle that makes a reservation.

The pandemic has delayed openings at Acadia National Park and indefinitely postponed operation of shuttle buses, but leaders are forging ahead with plans for a trial run this fall of a parking reservation system for Cadillac Mountain and Ocean Drive, with people allowed to make online reservations in August.

acadia traffic

A parking reservation system to help ease congestion like this on Cadillac starts a trial run in the fall, with sign-ups beginning in August. (NPS photo)

The dry run for parking at a reserved site and driving at Cadillac and along Ocean Drive between the Sand Beach Entrance booths and Otter Cliff Road will be held in October. Reservations to access those areas can be made well ahead of the test run, probably as early as Aug. 1 over the same web-based system currently used for reservations at National Park Service campgrounds.

Acadia is also planning a reservation system to park at the north lot of Jordan Pond starting not before 2022, but that location will not be in the trial run, according to John T. Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park.

acadia traffic

The parking reservation system is a key aspect of the 2019 transportation plan to manage Acadia traffic. (Image courtesy of NPS)

The vehicle reservation system, a key aspect of the park’s new transportation plan to reduce traffic congestion, is planned to operate for a full visitor season for the first time in 2021 between June 23 and the second Monday in October at Cadillac summit and the Ocean Drive Corridor, or past the entrance to Sand Beach. The test drive is aimed at providing important lessons for running the system in 2021.

Kelly acknowledged uncertainties, but he said the coronavirus pandemic so far is not altering plans for the dry run of the vehicle reservation system.

“There is so much unknown that I can’t say for certain anything really but we are on schedule and we have every intent on doing the trial run and keeping it going next year,” Kelly said in a phone interview.

“It is a great opportunity to get the bugs out of what we are preparing and end up going into the off season versus starting it next June and going into the busiest part of the season.” Continue reading

Maine virtual race with medals a new way to socially distance

Giving a new meaning to social distancing, the Amazin’ Maine Virtual Race brings far-flung family and friends virtually near, alone together, on a magical virtual tour of Acadia to Katahdin and along the coast from Lubec to Ogunquit.

virtual race with medals

Sign up now and virtually visit special places in Maine. You don’t have to complete the entire course to be a winner, and you can backdate miles to April 16. (Image provided courtesy of Racery)

With Acadia National Park closed until at least June 1 and the cancellation today of what would have been the 20th anniversary of the Friends of Acadia Earth Day Roadside Cleanup, the virtual race with medals helps connect those with a love of the park as they “scale” the 26 peaks of Acadia together, no matter where in the world they’re logging hiking or running miles.

And with many Maine state parks shuttered until at least April 30, and real-life races and festivals cancelled or postponed, the Amazin’ Maine Virtual Race provides a way to experience a virtual Vacationland, show support for Maine organizations, shake off some of the coronavirus cabin-fever blues and stay up on some of the COVID-19 updates.

virtual race with medals

When the new issue of Friends of Acadia Journal lands in your mailbox, you’ll see our announcement about the virtual race.

Sponsored by this blog to help support Friends of Acadia, Millinocket Memorial Library, and a new Robin Emery Prize – named after a Maine Running Hall of Famer and virtual racer who goes by the name of @Fossil, to be awarded to a 5th through 12th-grade girl who runs the Down East Family YMCA’s Main Street Memorial Mile – the Amazin’ Virtual Race runs from now through Aug. 8.

Sign up today and you have the chance to earn a medallion made by the same company that makes the Boston Marathon and MDI Marathon medals, with your choice of Maine-themed ribbon. You can backdate miles to April 16.

The 206.8-mile virtual race course features 10 segments with pop-up Google Street View photos and special red pindrops embedded in the map. Start by climbing all 26 peaks of Acadia, then go near or on some or all of such real-life race routes as Crow Athletics’ Bridge the Gap Race and Millinocket Marathon, and along such scenic coastal hikes as Mowry Beach Preserve in Lubec and Marginal Way in Ogunquit.

There are even Stephen King-themed virtual stops along the route, and pop-ups with information about local businesses or race postponement news. Finish atop Katahdin, Maine’s highest mountain and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

virtual race with medals

Virtually climb Acadia’s 26 peaks, and you may get a 360-degree Google Street View on the Amazin’ Maine Virtual Race route. Watch your race avatar move along the 10 segments of the virtual race, from Acadia to Katahdin, Lubec to Ogunquit. Register now. (Image courtesy of Racery)

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Acadia National Park bus sets record ridership, eyes growth

Since it began operating in 1999, the fare-free Island Explorer has transported more than 8 million passengers while operating in Acadia National Park and surrounding communities. In 2019, the Island Explorer set another annual record for ridership, carrying 643,870 passengers, up 3.3 percent from 2018 and 55 percent from 2010, according to National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics. The Island Explorer buses, powered by propane, are partly financed by Acadia entrance fees, the Federal Transit Administration and LL Bean. Island Explorer service on Mount Desert Island operates seasonally from June 23 through late August, and at a reduced schedule through Indigenous Peoples Day in mid-October. It starts about Memorial Day weekend on the Schoodic Peninsula to coincide with the opening of the Schoodic Woods campground.

Executive director of Downeast Transportation

Paul Murphy, executive director of Downeast Transportation, stands next to the door of an Island Explorer bus parked inside a garage at the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton. (Photo courtesy Downeast Transportation)

Paul Murphy is executive director of Downeast Transportation, the nonprofit operator of the Island Explorer and other transit in Hancock County. Murphy, who started as operations manager in 2002 for Downeast Transportation, took up a range of issues with Acadia on My Mind, including plans for new buses, the routes, possible expansion of the Acadia National Park bus shuttle and suspension this year of an express service for bicyclists. Edited responses:

The Island Explorer does not provide a route to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the most popular attraction at Acadia National Park. We realize this decision was made before you started at Downeast Transportation. Why is there no service to Cadillac peak on the national park shuttle?

Paul Murphy: There are several reasons. A prominent one is that there are private operators who in large part make their living from taking people up Cadillac Mountain. It was a compromise at the time to keep those operators whole.

Second, it would require more robust braking and heavier duty vehicles. It has nothing to do with the propane engine. It has to do with the wear and tear on a vehicle climbing up and down the mountain all day.

Third, it would create demand that we don’t have the capacity to meet. It would be the single thing I can think of that would most impact demand.  We struggle to fund what we already have in operations.

How big are the Island Explorer buses and how many passengers do they carry?

Murphy: They are about 30 feet. We can put 43 passengers on a bus including 13 who would stand. Continue reading

Top 11 Acadia National Park events that defined the decade

Eleven important Acadia National Park events shaped the decade at the Maine national park and left some lasting changes including new records in visits, a generous donation of land and projects in the Schoodic section, the park’s 100th anniversary, a new superintendent, a presidential visit and a heightened awareness of climate change.

Here are some key moments, happenings and trends that dominated Acadia National Park during the 2010s:

Legacy of President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama hikes Acadia National Park

The beauty of Acadia has drawn generations of visitors, most notably President Barack Obama and family in July 2010 (White House photo)

A presidential visit may have been the most memorable  of Acadia National Park events. On the heels of his biggest political victory – passage of a national health insurance plan – Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Acadia National Park. The president’s family vacation in July 2010 drew crowds and created a lot of excitement in Bar Harbor and the park. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha spent three days in the park including hiking the summit loop on Cadillac Mountain and Ship Harbor and visiting Bass Harbor Head Light. While the short vacation put the national spotlight on Acadia, possibly Obama’s most important legacy in Maine occurred in August 2016 when he used the Antiquities Act to unilaterally approve a new national monument – the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument. Both Acadia and the new Maine monument were created with private land donations and both overcame political hurdles. Obama also started the Every Kid in a Park initiative in 2015, renewed every year since, in which the National Park Service gives every fourth grader and family free admission to national parks. President Donald J. Trump has affirmed Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, and Every Kid in a Park (although the Trump administration now calls it Every Kid Outdoors).

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