Ridership on the Island Explorer is up about 10 percent over last year, an increase in line with increased visitation to Acadia National Park in its centennial year.

Acadia visitation up 18.1 percent



ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Park visitation this year is on pace to exceed 3 million for the first time ever.

Acadia officials said Monday that as of July 31, an estimated 1.49 million people had visited the park this year. That was 228,000 more than during the same period in 2015, an increase of 18.1 percent.

“A 7 percent increase in visitation over last year would put us over 3 million visits for this year,” park spokesman John Kelly said.

July’s visitation numbers were up 10 percent over July of last year.

Kelly said that 50-52 percent of park visits typically occur between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, so exceeding the three million mark is a virtually certainty.

The park had an estimated 2.81 million visitors in 2015. That was an increase of about 250,000 over the previous year.

The park’s all-time high in visitation was 2.84 million in 1995. Over the past few years, Acadia has been the ninth most-visited of America’s 59 national parks.

The increase in visitation this season is reflected in ridership on the free Island Explorer bus system, which runs from June 23 to Columbus Day, with a reduced schedule starting Sept. 1.

Paul Murphy, general manager of Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer, said Monday that, so far this season, ridership is up about 10 percent over the same period last year. For the entire 2015 season, the Island Explorer carried a record 533,359 passengers. That was a 15 percent increase over the previous year and 26 percent higher than in 2013.

Buses are often full to capacity, and sometimes even the extra buses that are put on the most popular routes at the busiest times can’t accommodate everyone who wants to ride.

Murphy said that, as usual, the busiest routes are Jordan Pond, Sand Beach, Park Loop Road, Eden Street and Campgrounds.

With the opening of Schoodic Woods Campground and the start of a second ferry service between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor, Murphy said the Island Explorer’s route on the Schoodic Peninsula has seen a doubling of ridership this year. But that adds very little to the overall total.

“It’s still a very small number,” Murphy said. “On a big day this year, we might carry 100 passengers.”

 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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