ACADIA NAT’L PARK — During the park’s peak visitor season, reservations would be required to drive on the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road and the Cadillac Mountain summit road and to park in the North lot at Jordan Pond House, according to the park’s long-range transportation plan released Thursday by the National Park Service (NPS).
Acadia officials said it is very unlikely that the reservation system and other proposals in the plan could be implemented before 2020, and it might take longer.
The public has until June 26 to submit comments on what is labeled the “draft” plan, after which NPS officials could revise it before issuing the final version.
More than three years in the making, the transportation plan is intended to relieve traffic and parking congestion, which has become a serious summertime problem in recent years.
The plan calls for establishing a “timed-entry vehicle reservation system” for the section of the Park Loop Road between the Sand Beach entrance station and the Fabbri picnic area. That section includes some of the park’s most popular visitor sites, including Sand Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs.
Reservations also would be required to drive to up the Cadillac Mountain summit road, which had to be closed to incoming traffic several times last summer because of bottlenecks at the top, where there is limited parking. Also filled to capacity on many summer days is the North lot at Jordan Pond House.
“The timed-entry system would provide reservation holders with a specific time window during which their vehicle would be permitted to enter the corridor or parking lot,” according to the transportation plan. “Once inside the corridor or parking lot, there would be no limits on length of stay.”
One source of congestion and safety concerns is parking in the right lane of some sections of the Park Loop Road.
“Right-lane parking would be retained in the near term, but eventually phased out as other options and parking become available,” the plan states, adding that the eventual elimination of on-road parking would “reduce the potential for vehicle/bicycle/pedestrian conflicts.”
Operation of the reservation system would be funded by fees charged for reservations in addition to the regular park entrance fee. The cost of a reservation has not been announced.
Another piece of the draft transportation plan is the elimination of the small parking lot and restrooms across Eagle Lake Road from the lake. A new, larger parking area with restrooms would be created at what is now a park maintenance storage area known as Lipscomb Pit, which is off Eagle Lake Road a short distance up McFarland Hill from the lake.
In the interest of safety, roadside parking would be eliminated in the area of Eagle Lake.
The draft transportation plan is the “preferred alternative” of several that Acadia and other NPS officials considered.
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in a message accompanying the plan that it is “an important milestone in creating a shared vision for enhancing visitor experience, managing congestion, protecting natural resources and improving safety.”
But he emphasized that the plan is not final and that public input is encouraged.
“Ultimately, a different alternative could be selected, or a new alternative representing a different combination of strategies could be developed in the final transportation plan,” he said.
Comments on the plan may be submitted online at go.nps.gov/AcadiaPlan. Once there, click on “Open for Comment.”
The Acadia National Park Draft Transportation Plan and Impact Statement (193 pages), a ten-page Newsletter summary document, and other materials are available for download from the National Park Service website.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated the date the proposed changes are expected to go into effect. None of the changes would take place until at least 2020, according to park officials.