ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A beautiful, bright fall morning provided ideal conditions for the second Car-Free Morning event of the year Saturday.
The Park Loop and Cadillac Mountain roads were closed to vehicle traffic except authorized bus tours and the Island Explorer bus from midnight to noon Saturday.
The Park Service organized volunteers to count walkers and cyclists on the road and to open and close gates for buses. “Our preliminary counts show that we had just over 1,000 participants, most of which were bicyclists,” Acadia Deputy Superintendent Mike Madell said. “That’s about 300 more than we had for the May 16 event.”
That number did not include a count of those who rode on the buses. On a comparable fall Saturday, about 2,000 people come to the park.
There was some confusion about whether rollerblading and skateboarding were allowed, Madell said. Those activities are not allowed when there are vehicles on the road, but because of the confusion, rangers “let it ride” until 10 a.m. when the buses started running.
“We’ve had a really good response from folks,” Ranger Robert Donaldson said while helping direct traffic at the Fabbri picnic area parking lot. “We’ve had some that were apprehensive, but when they came back in, said, ‘I was frustrated at first, but this turned out to be awesome.’ We’ve had some people turn around because they don’t want to park and walk, but most people are kind of excited about it.”
Volunteers organized by Friends of Acadia (FOA) handed out cards with the web address for an online survey to collect information about visitor experiences. “In order for us to do the public input survey, it had to be completely separate from the Park Service,” FOA conservation director Stephanie Clement said. “We’re trying to get as much public input as possible. We’ll combine information with the survey we did back in May to provide information to the park’s transportation planning committee.” The survey will stay open for a few more weeks, and the public is encouraged to participate, she said.
A debriefing meeting was held at the Hull’s Cove Visitor Center after the morning event. “Most of the folks who came to the park not realizing what was going on were out-of-towners,” Madell said. “We tried as best we can to get the word out, but obviously we’re still not reaching everyone.”
Madell spent the morning on a bicycle, helping to coordinate activities at Jordan Pond House and in Hulls Cove.
“It’s certainly a different type of park out there with very few vehicles,” he said. “It’s unquestionable that we’ll never go to a car-free park. Vehicles are always going to be part of the equation here, but there may be opportunities for some limitations on cars at certain locations or times of day.”