ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The timed-entry reservation system for driving to a few of the most popular places in the park, which is to go into effect in the summer of 2021, is likely to get a trial run this fall.
“We’re exploring the possibility of instituting for two or three weeks in October a dry run of the reservation system for Cadillac Mountain and Ocean Drive,” Superintendent Kevin Schneider told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday.
“That would allow us to understand all the dynamics of the system, understand what’s required from us from a staffing standpoint and then make adjustments as we go into 2021.”
Once the reservation goes into effect next summer, it also will apply to the north parking lot at Jordan Pond.
The purpose of the reservation system is to reduce gridlock and illegal, unsafe roadside parking. Visitors would need to make a reservation to drive on Ocean Drive between the entrance station and Otter Cliff Road between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting the second Friday in June and going through the Sunday following Columbus Day. The same time period would apply to parking in the north lot at Jordan Pond.
The reservation period would start earlier in the day and go later for Cadillac Mountain because so many people want to be at the summit at sunrise and sunset.
“On an average, beautiful summer morning, there are 450 cars parked at the summit of Cadillac, where we have 150 parking spaces,” Schneider said when the park’s transportation plan was finalized last spring.
“So, there are basically 150 cars parked legally and 300 parked everywhere, many in unsafe locations.”
The timed-entry system will give people with reservations a specific time window during which their vehicle will be permitted to enter one of the three designated areas of the park.
Schneider said Monday that Acadia has contracted with Booz Allen Hamilton, an international information technology consulting company, to operate the reservation system. Booz Allen Hamilton operates the website where people can make camping reservations at national parks, including Acadia.
“We met with their team in January, and their recommendation was to conduct a dry run of the system at a time when the park is getting less busy and not at the very beginning of the season in 2021,” Schneider said.
“There are still a lot of details we need to work out. But we have a provider that has done this in other locations, so that is really helpful.”
Advisory Commission member Howie Motenko told Schneider, “I’m very happy that you are trying something out ahead of time and seeing what’s going to work and being flexible about making changes as time goes on.”
David MacDonald, president and CEO of Friends of Acadia, described the reservation system as “vital.”
“Our membership and our board really want to see the park implement this, and I’m excited that you’ve got a contractor that’s ready to go,” he said.
“We have offered to provide some financial support to make sure the park has the project management to implement this. The degree to which that will be needed remains to be seen.”