ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — Following a meeting between park personnel and the public to address special use permit regulations, officials have developed a policy statement to help better communicate its requirements.
A large number of activities and uses of the park make fitting regulations into a single category difficult, explained Public Information Officer John Kelly.
“We can’t lay out a list of everything in black and white,” he said. “We’re going to consider all proposals and review them according to the criteria that we have and make a decision about issuing the permit on a case-by-case basis.”
A permit is required, he said, for all group activities that have the potential to impact non-participating visitors. The review process allows the park to accommodate such activities and help better manage group events. “We want people to enjoy the park for special events like a wedding, sports activity or a family reunion.”
The real challenge for the public, he said, is to know when a permit is needed. He suggests consulting the park before a group event is scheduled.
According to Kelly, there are three ways an inquiry about a non-commercial group activity is likely to be handled.
Officials might approve the activity without the need for filing for a permit.
In another scenario, officials might suggest completing a permit application.
“The decision may be that we deny that permit,” Kelly said.
The special use permit for an organized activity costs $50, which is refunded if the park deems the permit is not required or rejects the application. In the latter situation, officials might suggest changes, like reducing number of participants to make it more compatible with the character of the park.
The predicted number of participants, explains Kelly, is “one very small piece of the ultimate process of issuing the permit.” The park takes into consideration the activity itself, along with the location and the timing of the event.
“We don’t want people to think that the permit is a way for us to deny a use,” he adds. “That’s really why we have the whole [review] process in place.”
Even though there is no fixed cap on the number of participants, Kelly suggests contacting park officials if an activity has a possibility of involving over 20 people.
The park service, he said, is considering setting different group thresholds according to the time of year.
Dispelling concerns over a requirement that the Mount Desert Island High School cross-country team get permission for training runs on carriage roads as well as several hiking trails, the park issued a special use permit to the school on Friday, Sept. 11.
“We don’t see this as a controversial thing,” said MDI Athletic Director Bunky Dow. “We know there are certain procedures we need to follow. It’s just something they are trying to enforce.”
Kelly said the park is exploring longer term agreements that would allow the school’s cross-country team “to more easily have their needs accommodated.”
He stressed that the park officials cannot act with favoritism or prejudice towards area residents when making decisions concerning activities in the park. “We always have to think broadly and look at the big picture. For us, it’s always a national issue,” said Kelly. “Everyone has the right to use the park equally and even though we understand that most people feel that this is their park. It’s nice that there’s that sort of backyard feeling to Acadia. We just can’t manage it that way.”