ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Superintendent Kevin Schneider has just over two weeks to decide what if any restrictions to place on the use of electric bikes on the 45 miles of carriage roads in the park.
The carriage roads have been off limits to e-bikes, which have small motors that can be activated to supplement pedal power. But on Aug. 29, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt ordered all agencies within the department, including the National Park Service, to allow e-bikes wherever non-motorized bikes are permitted. He gave them 30 days to create “a clear and consistent e-bike policy.”
Schneider told the Acadia Advisory Commission on Monday that he has received many emails and phone calls from people on both sides of the issue.
“The policy suggests that we might look at public feedback, and we certainly are mindful of what we are hearing from the public on the topic,” he said. “The policy allows us to put further restrictions or limitations on (e-bikes) if we need to based on safety or natural resource considerations or other management objectives.”
It is unclear how much discretion Schneider actually has.
Commission member Katherine Heidinger of Winter Harbor reminded him that the commission previously has voted to oppose allowing e-bikes on the carriage roads.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. built the carriage roads and gave them to the park with the understanding that motorized vehicles would not be allowed. Commission member Ken Cline of Bar Harbor referred to that agreement when he said, “[There is] the old adage that great nations and great men should keep their word.”
Schneider said the interior secretary’s memo “states that some of these e-bikes are sort of non-motorized devices.”
“So, we are just trying to think through what the memo says and what the original intention of those donations was when the carriage roads were built. They definitely were built to be non-motorized places.”
Commission member Matt Horton of Bar Harbor said he is in favor of allowing e-bikes on the carriage roads.
“I think it’s great that people who have disabilities, people who are older or maybe not as physically fit…this is a great opportunity for them,” he said.
Horton said “motorized” doesn’t mean the same today as it did when Rockefeller built the carriage roads.
“Motorized back then was internal combustion; electric cars were very rare,” he said. “I think Rockefeller’s point was to keep cars off the carriage trails.”
Commission member Dexter Lee of Swan’s Island said, “There’s one couple on Swan’s Island that’s really looking forward to e-bikes on the carriage trails.”