BAR HARBOR — With beautiful weather, many people enjoy sleeping out of doors. Bar Harbor has four campgrounds plus a new “glampground,” with seven more campgrounds scattered across Mount Desert Island for those who want to sleep under the stars.
Those who decide to sleep outside in a public space other than a campground will likely have a police officer visiting them.
According to Sgt. Chris Wharff of the Bar Harbor Police Department, police officers warn people of camping in violation of municipal ordinance several times a week in the summer.
“There’s no overnight camping in Bar Harbor on public property,” he said. Camping on private property with the owner’s permission is allowed. Other than that, people need to go to a campground.
The town’s public places ordinance (Chapter 147) reads: “No person shall use or permit to be used any public thoroughfare, public street, beach … or any other public place in the town of Bar Harbor for the purpose of overnight accommodation or a temporary or permanent abode or habitation, except with the written permission of the Town Council.”
Most often, illegal camping involves people sleeping in their vehicles, not setting up a tent. Popular spots for this are the athletic fields parking lot and Hadley Point, Wharff said.
Hadley Point, a public beach owned by the town, has been listed on a free camping website. If people argue with police, Wharff said, “sometimes we give people [a copy of] the ordinance.”
The Hadley Point Beach listing, on freecampsites.net, cautions readers that the “listing is unconfirmed.” An anonymous review from April 2019 states, “No camping allowed! If you camp out you may be contacted by the police.”
Across the island, Police Chief Alan Brown of the Southwest Harbor Police Department said while Southwest Harbor also forbids camping on town property, “it doesn’t come up” much.
“We’ve had people park in the municipal parking lot, and we don’t allow that,” he said. “It’s gotten better than it used to.” Recently, he said his officers have only had to issue warnings “a couple times a year.”
Acadia National Park, with two campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, does not allow backcountry camping. Rangers have reported illegal campsites with open fires found in the park this summer, with one of them causing a wildfire on Cadillac Mountain that burned about one-fifth of an acre before being extinguished by members of the Bar Harbor and Mount Desert fire departments in June.