MOUNT DESERT —National Park Canoe and Kayak Rental, which has been in business for at least four decades, is seeing one of its busiest seasons to date.
Customers mainly load their vessels into Long Pond by way of Long Pond’s End off Pretty Marsh Road where members of the public can also launch their boats. Traffic at the location this year, both on the water and in the dirt parking lot, seems higher than in previous years. It is not unusual to see multiple kayaks, a few stand-up paddle boards, several canoes and the occasional motorboat maneuvering around one another on the water.
“We’ve been really busy,” said Bruce St. Peter, who manages the canoe and kayak rental business and has worked there for the last six years. “It’s been hectic with so many boats on the water.”
Maine’s Game Warden Service is still investigating an incident that happened on July 20 involving a motorboat and a kayak. According to a press release, a 16-foot Boston Whaler was towing a water skier on the western side of Northern Neck on Long Pond and hit a kayak with 71-year-old Bass Harbor resident Mary D’Allesandro inside. Passengers of the Whaler, as well as the driver, George Massucco, 53, of Boulder, Colo., immediately stopped to help D’Allesandro and brought her to the ramp at Long Pond’s End where she was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
“In the four years I’ve been here, this is the first incident I’ve dealt with on Long Pond,” said Camden Akins, who is the warden for MDI. “No charges have been filed in the incident… Part of the reason it’s so busy is it’s right on the road and roads go all around it.”
Another reason Long Pond may have a higher volume of traffic than other local bodies of water is that it allows motorized boats with 10 horsepower or greater, unlike any other pond or lake on Mount Desert Island.
“There’s not any restrictions as far as horsepower goes,” explains Akins. In a written follow-up, he added, “there may not be many special regs (regulations) on Long Pond but there are many other requirements when it comes to navigation, equipment and registration.”
It is not clear if D’Allesandro rented her kayak from National Park Canoe and Kayak Rental. When customers are renting equipment, St. Peter said many will ask about motorboats on the pond. He and other employees will let people know there are motorboats and to be cautious of them. They also direct customers to the right of the shore, to the western side of Northern Neck, an island-like section of the pond, where it tends to be shallower.
“Typically motorboats won’t go there,” said St. Peter. “It’s pretty beginner-friendly out there.”
Rentals at the company go out in three-hour time blocks, which is usually long enough for visitors to take in the scenery.
“A lot of people after COVID just want to get out,” said Eli Pouwels, a first-season employee who was checking equipment out on a recent cloudy morning. “As long as it’s not raining. People just want to experience nature and see wildlife. Days like this, it’s nice and calm.
“Most of the people that go out know what they are doing,” he added. “If they’ve got any questions, they can ask us.”
As children head back to school, the business was seeing its typical slowdown in activity, according to St. Peter. Rentals, as with most other activity on MDI, began earlier than normal this year.
“Even though it was cold, people were still going out,” he said.
August is usually the busiest month for the business, but more customers have been served in June and July than in previous years.
“It’s been quite a busy year,” said Akins, “specifically for paddle crafts.”