Tag Archives: transportation-plan

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

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

Traffic triggers closures of Cadillac Mountain summit road

Acadia National Park temporarily closed the road to the Cadillac Mountain summit to incoming vehicles seven different times on Sunday and Monday, underscoring the need for a comprehensive transportation plan at the park, according to a park official.

Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant at Acadia National Park

Amanda Dilley, one of four new visitor service assistants for Acadia National Park, monitors a long line of traffic at the summit of Cadillac Mountain on Monday. Park officials temporarily closed the popular mountain to incoming motorists on four separate occasions that day.

Because of traffic congestion during the busy July 4 weekend, even a quieter side of the park – the Schoodic section – saw a closure for about 90 minutes on Sunday on the road between the entrance to Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) and Schoodic Point, according to a table of official road closures.

Ocean Drive, which provides access to Sand Beach, was closed a little more than 15 minutes on Monday afternoon.

John T. Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, said his feeling is that the closures are “making our transportation plan all that more pertinent.”

The National Park Service is developing a new transportation plan and considering several preliminary ideas to relieve Acadia traffic congestion and boost safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond.

The Cadillac Mountain summit attracted many visitors on Sunday and Monday, which were both sunny days following a couple of overcast days. The road to Cadillac was closed three times on Sunday, including for about 90 minutes near the sun set, when the peak is a big draw, and four separate times on Monday, including again for about an hour because of crowds during a spectacular sun set.

There were no closures on Saturday, a cloudy day, or July 4, when many visitors apparently left.

Kelly said the Cadillac Mountain summit road is closed to further incoming cars when traffic is bumper to bumper from the parking lot at the peak to the Blue Hill Overlook. The overlook is about a quarter of a mile from the lot at the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Kelly said none of the closures lasted a very long time.

“While it is a disruption for sure for the visitor, it is not catastrophic,” he said.

acadia national park

Good weather and crowds contributed to temporary road shutdowns throughout Acadia during the July 4 weekend.

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Acadia Centennial helps draw record 3.2 million park visitors

The Acadia Centennial has helped attract more than 3.2 million visitors so far to the national park this year, capped by record attendance for October.

acadia national park hiking

Views like these along Jordan Pond in October helped draw record crowds to Acadia this year.

An eye-popping 412,416 people visited during October, up 19.8 percent from last year’s monthly record of 344,362, according to statistics from the National Park Service.

Through October, visitors during the Acadia Centennial totaled 3.234 million, up 17.7 percent from last year. Depending on the weather, visitation could total 3.3 million for this year, said John T. Kelly, management assistant for Acadia.

Kelly said visitation this year reached 3 million for the first time since at least 1990, when the park changed the way it counts visitors. The previous record since 1990 was 2.845 million in 1995, according to the federal statistics.

Some good aspects of the crowds are that people came to enjoy the park and the park therefore collected more revenues from entrance fees and local businesses saw a boost, but the downsides include traffic congestion during peak periods.

crowds in acadia

Crowds in Acadia can make for an unpleasant experience as seen here on the Park Loop Road and Ocean Path. (NPS photo)

Visitation during the summer of the Acadia Centennial produced some staggering numbers.  In September, visitation was 570,434, up 19 percent from the same month last year; August, 735,945, up 10 percent; July, 696,854, up 15 percent; and June, 445,410 up 24 percent.

Visitors to the Schoodic Peninsula, the only section of the park on the mainland, reached 276,233 through October, up 31 percent from 210,549 during the same 10 months last year. More people went to Schoodic because of the new Schoodic Woods Campground and more than 8 miles of new bike paths.
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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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