ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — An estimated 2.8 million people visited Acadia last year, a 9.7 percent increase over the previous year and the most visitors since 1995, according to Charlie Jacobi, the park’s natural resource specialist.
“We had big increases in every month, and visitation in September and October was the highest we’ve had in the 25 years that we’ve been collecting visitor use stats,” he told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday.
He said park visitation was up 9.1 percent on Mount Desert Island, 12.8 percent on Isle au Haut and 25.6 percent in the section of the park on the Schoodic Peninsula.
However, Jacobi explained that Schoodic’s percentage increase over 2014 probably wasn’t actually that high because the 2014 count was just a rough estimate. He said the estimated 219,202 visitors to Schoodic last year was an increase of about 18 percent over 2013.
Part of that increase, he said, was due to the opening of the Schoodic Woods Campground, along with its bike paths and hiking trails, in early September.
There was a 12.1 decrease in commercial coach bus passengers in the Mount Desert Island section of the park last year.
Jacobi said there are probably two reasons for that. One is that the park now limits the number of coach buses allowed at the summit of Cadillac Mountain at any one time. The other reason, Jacobi said, is the 147 percent increase in the number of commercial van passengers – from 2,810 to 6,940.
“Business operations in Bar Harbor are changing a little bit, and I think some of those small vans probably took some of the cruise ship traffic,” he said.
Some of the park’s visitation numbers are educated estimates of, for example, the average number of people in private vehicles.
“For May through October, it’s three persons per vehicle,” Jacobi said.
The 172,971 overnight stays in the park’s campgrounds last year represented a 4.3 percent increase over 2014.
Officials are predicting even higher visitation in 2016 as the National Park Service and Acadia celebrate their centennials.