ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Not every place in the park has been impacted equally by this year’s surge in tourism.
While the estimated number of visits to the park as a whole was up 22 percent through August, the Bass Harbor Head Light Station saw a 36 percent increase.
“This area continues to be one of the most popular and congested areas in the park,” Management Assistant John Kelly told the Acadia Advisory Commission earlier this month.
“We are fully aware of the impact this is having on the neighbors, on the town [of Tremont] just outside the park. We are working with the town and the neighbors to alleviate those problems.”
Kelly said the park has started a preliminary planning process with the support of the Denver Service Center, which is the central planning, design and constructing project management office for the National Park Service. The service center helps officials in parks across the country “make decisions that preserve natural and cultural resources while providing for excellent visitor experiences.”
Kelly said the preliminary planning work will result in a report that points the way forward.
“The idea is that it will be the foundation, the first step toward a more comprehensive plan that looks at visitor safety, how we can improve the visitor experience, access, how transportation will work and how we are going to protect and reuse the important resources at the lighthouse, “Kelly said.
“We hope to have this report in November. But before it is finalized, we will be reaching out to stakeholders to get their input.”
The Bass Harbor Head Light Station and its 27-space parking lot are at the end of the narrow Lighthouse Road, which turns off Route 102A. When the lot is full, people often park on the side of the road, sometimes even blocking private driveways. Because less than half of Lighthouse Road is on park property, rangers cannot enforce the prohibition on parking on the rest of the road or on Route 102A.
“We station park rangers there to deal with the traffic when we can,” Kelly said. “We have closed the parking lot 13 times so far this season, with probably more to come this fall. And we have worked with the town to improve the signage, to make it clear that people cannot park in people’s driveways or on side roads or on the shoulder. That continues to be a big challenge.”
At the Advisory Commission’s meeting in June, Kelly said, “We really can’t begin to look at a reuse of the lighthouse, providing more of an attraction for people to go there, without dealing with the traffic issues, both in the park and in the neighborhood and on Route 102A.”