Like any new venture, no one really knows how much the new Schoodic Woods Campground will benefit the community when it opens for its first full season this spring.
But even the most conservative merchants are expecting a boost in their business as campers book space at the 94-site National Park Service campground on the Schoodic Peninsula.
The campground opened in the fall of 2015. This year, and in subsequent seasons, Schoodic Woods will open Memorial Day weekend and close Columbus Day weekend in mid-October.
Park Planner John Kelly said this first full season also might not be a good indicator since Acadia National Park is celebrating its centennial this year.
“We have not operated in the high season at all,” he said. “Last year was just a warm-up to 2016, which will begin to tell us what we can expect in the future.”
Former Acadia National Park Superintendent Sheridan Steele has said that in his experience, the National Park Service’s, campgrounds quickly fill up once opened.
Kelly said the park is planning to have the Island Explorer bus, which transports visitors in and around the park on the Schoodic Peninsula, run every half-hour instead of every hour.
There will be more park rangers, he said, as well as more maintenance and resource management personnel.
The park service also is in the midst of preparing a transportation plan to handle larger crowds on the Schoodic Peninsula and the increasing number of visitors to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island.
Cheryl Brackett, president of the Schoodic Chamber of Commerce, said the number of increased visitors is difficult to gauge because of the curtailed inaugural season in 2015.
She did say that she and her husband, Ed Brackett, saw an increase in bicycle rentals. They rent kayaks and bicycles through their SeaScape Kayaking business in Winter Harbor and offer kayaking tours as well.
“They did say they were here for the campground,” said Brackett of the rental customers.
At one time, the Schoodic Peninsula had Oceanwood Campground in Birch Harbor village, but that closed many years ago.
“We found that people in recreational vehicles like to eat out a lot while tenters are more self-sufficient,” Brackett said.
She said campers who stay for one week are likely to try all of the restaurants and then branch out off the Peninsula.
“Also, day-trippers are more likely to use emergency medical technician services than overnighters because they are more likely to be biking and hiking,” Brackett said.
“There is so much to offer here,” she said. “This is the Maine people want to see. They want our uncrowded, unspoiled area.”
She said a number of local residents are concerned about increased development of the area, worried that it might become like Mount Desert Island.
“If you talk to people in Bar Harbor they never, years ago, envisioned the number of hotels they have today,” Brackett said.
She said the Chamber of Commerce recognizes that visitors need to be informed about the range of activities and businesses on the Schoodic Peninsula.
“It’s finding a balance between tourists and locals,” Brackett said. “The locals have to be able to live their everyday lives.”
There are other more immediate issues as well, she said. There is only one public restroom available in Winter Harbor and the campground has no showers.
Jesse and Sarah Christensen, owners of the popular Pickled Wrinkle pub and restaurant in Birch Harbor, said they saw an increase in customers in the fall once the campground opened.
“We definitely got people from it,” Jesse said. “They talked to the staff, so that’s how we know. We also saw the same pick-ups and campers in the campground and then here.”
He said the pub has been getting busier and busier each year even without the campground.
The Christensens have doubled the size of their kitchen since buying the pub in 2013.
“We have had to hire more people and work on efficiency and add some equipment,” Jesse said.
He said the Pickled Wrinkle prepares a lot of food to go, but there is increased traffic inside as well.
Last summer they added outside seating and will likely add even more this year.
“People always tell us, this is what we were looking for,” Jesse said. “Expansion is inevitable. Growth is inevitable. The area is so undiscovered.”
Kelly, the Acadia National Park Service planner, said the park completed public meetings on its proposed transportation plan last summer and will have a draft plan with proposed alternatives by June.
The purpose of the plan is to determine ways to provide safe and efficient transportation for visitors while protecting park resources.
Visitors travel to the park by private vehicle, tour bus, bicycle, ferry, Island Explorer bus and other modes.
Kelly said a park-wide transportation plan is needed to determine ways to improve safety, reduce congestion and crowding, avoid adverse impacts to park resources and provide visitors with a high quality experience.
“We’re going to have sort of an a-la-carte set of solutions to the problem,” he said. “The reason for that is the diversity of the issues and the diversity of the park.”
Acadia National Park on the Schoodic Peninsula, he said, might have four alternatives for varying locations.
There would be a wider range of alternatives on Mount Desert Island.
“We might have six very different solutions for Cadillac Mountain and maybe three for the Jordan Pond area,” Kelly said.