ACADIA NAT’L PARK — With Acadia recording an estimated 811,000 fewer visits this year from May through October than in the same six months last year, the park lost more than $1.1 million in entrance pass fees.
The drop in visitation and loss of revenue was no doubt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Acadia keeps 80 percent of the money it collects from entrance pass sales to pay for infrastructure and other projects to enhance the visitor experience and protect park resources. The remaining 20 percent goes to the National Park Service to help fund projects in other parks around the country.
From May through October, all Acadia visitors are required to have an entrance pass. In 2019, the park collected a total of $5.7 million in entrance pass fees in those six months, compared to $4.3 million during that period this year. Acadia gets to keep $3.4 million of that amount, which is down from $4.5 million last year.
“That means some projects that we thought might happen [soon] might be pushed farther into the future,” said Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider.
“But our bottom line is not financial; it’s how happy our visitors are and how well we are protecting the park. The money is less important than keeping people safe and making sure we’re meeting our core mission.”
Acadia sells three types of entrance passes, each of which is good for seven days:
The private vehicle pass, which sells for $30, covers noncommercial vehicles and up to 15 passengers.
The $25 motorcycle pass covers up to two people on a private motorcycle.
The $15 per-person pass covers individual hikers or bicyclists.
Acadia officials had anticipated they would not be able to hire nearly as many seasonal employees as usual this summer, in large part because of housing restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schneider said in late May that the park would be able to accommodate less than half of the 85 people who had been expected to live in government housing during the summer and early fall.
“We are requiring that everybody have their own private bathroom and private bedroom,” he said at the time. “Normally, our folks share bathrooms quite extensively, so that has really limited our ability to house people.”
Over the past five years, the park has hired an average of 153 seasonal employees. This year there were 131, a reduction of about 14 percent.
“We had some employees who were able to find private housing to rent that, in a normal year, I don’t think they could have found,” Schneider said last week.
“Early in the season, some people in the community who had weekly rentals didn’t know what to expect [from COVID-19], and they chose to rent for the whole summer instead of doing weekly rentals.”
Christie Anastasia, Acadia’s public affairs specialist, said the park was able to hire some seasonal employees through a special authorization to hire local people who already had housing
“And some employees continued their plan to work for the park even though their original start date was delayed, in some cases from April/May to June/July,” she said.