Acadia is the ninth most-visited of America’s 59 national parks, and it is one of the smallest. So, on a per-acre basis, Acadia has more visitors each year than any other park in the top 10.
That will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited Acadia in the summer or early fall, especially if they have driven to the top of Cadillac Mountain, around the Park Loop Road and stopped for tea and popovers at Jordan Pond House.
In an effort to relieve traffic congestion and parking logjams, park officials have engaged surrounding communities in a long-range transportation-planning process.
A number of difficult issues are being addressed, such as whether tour buses and other oversize vehicles should be banned from the Cadillac Mountain summit road. As it is, vehicles over a certain length cannot physically negotiate some of the road’s hairpin turns without crossing into the other lane.
Also, some vehicles are too tall to fit under all of the arched carriage road bridges on the Loop Road without straddling the center line. And sometimes even that isn’t good enough.
“We’ve reshaped a few RVs with our bridges,” said Keith Johnston, the park’s chief of facilities maintenance. “The bridges hold up very well. The RVs usually lose.”
Because of the lack of adequate parking at some of the most popular visitor sites, such as Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, vehicles routinely park in the right-hand lane of the Park Loop Road. That creates more congestion and safety hazards. Whether parking in the roadway should continue to be allowed is another question the transportation planners are looking at.
The Island Explorer bus system, which has provided free transportation in the park and neighboring communities since 1999, has helped alleviate traffic and parking problems. But it, too, is reaching its carrying capacity.
The purpose of the transportation-planning process, Johnston said, is “to figure out a way to provide safe and efficient transportation in and around Acadia in cooperation with the communities. We want to make sure we can offer a variety of high-quality experiences to visitors and ensure the protection of our park resources and values.”