ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The timed entry reservation system for private vehicles, which was piloted last month, will not be in effect next summer for the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road, as had been planned.
The reservation system will be implemented for the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road.
Christie Anastasia, the park’s public affairs specialist, said Tuesday that park officials and consultants had spent two days last week analyzing the result of the 18-day pilot program. She said there were two reasons the pilot did not go as well as hoped on Ocean Drive: the absence of Island Explorer buses, which weren’t running because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of good cell phone service around the Sand Beach entrance station.
She said the Island Explorer is a critical part of the park’s overall transportation plan and the success of the reservation system.
“If people don’t have reservations or don’t want to deal with reservations or don’t want to even bother trying to park, they could use the Island Explorer,” Anastasia said. “We are really hoping the Island Explorer will run next year, but it may be that COVID will make us limit the number of passengers on the buses.”
As for the effect of the poor cell phone service at the Sand Beach entrance station, she said, “It was hard for people to pull down their [reservation] ticket, or if they wanted to get a ticket, they had to go out to Schooner Head Overlook and try to see if they could get cellular there.
“It also made it hard for the staff working in the booths,” Anastasia said. “Ideally, if we have reservations available and someone arrives at the booth, you want to be able to get a reservation for them. But because of the cellular situation there right now, we can’t do that.
“Reservations will eventually be [required] at the Sand Beach Entrance Station, but we’re not planning them for 2021 at this point.”
So, for next summer, the park will focus on implementing the timed entry reservation system for the Cadillac Mountain Summit Road.
“We found the reservation system for Cadillac Mountain worked really well during the pilot,” Anastasia said. “There’s still room for improvement, but we’re going to continue vehicle reservations at that location for 2021.”
The purpose of the reservation system is to reduce traffic congestion and parking lot overflows.
Anastasia noted that Ocean Drive and Cadillac Mountain are not the only places in the park that experience serious congestion at times. Another place is the north parking lot at Jordan Pond.
The park had planned to have that lot included in the reservation system next summer, but it was not part of the pilot of the system last month.
“We’re going to keep having conversations about the Jordan Pond area and the Bass Harbor Head Light Station and other areas,” Anastasia said. “Reservations may or may not be the solution in some of those areas.
“But for right now, we’re focused on making sure Cadillac is going to work really well.”
During the pilot of the reservation system, reservations were available for the 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. time period for those who wanted to be at the summit at sunrise. The other time period for which reservations were sold was 7 a.m. through sunset.