ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — The entire viewing area at Thunder Hole, one of the most popular visitor sites in the park, will be closed for repairs for nearly two months this spring.
Then, the Acadia section of Seal Cove Road, which runs from Seal Cove to Southwest Harbor, will be closed for culvert work for two months this summer.
Keith Johnston, the park’s chief of facilities maintenance, said the viewing platform and stairs at Thunder Hole are in serious need of repair. “The saltwater environment has completely dissolved all the masonry in the granite work around the structure, so we’re removing it. Basically, everywhere there is granite, the masonry joints have turned to sand, and stones throughout the entire structure are falling out of place.
“The granite facades that can be put back and don’t run the risk of falling into the ocean and the interior ones will be restored,” Johnston said. “But the exterior ones that take a pounding from the ocean, that’s not going to be put back. Those will get a tinted concrete façade.”
Johnston said there would be no visitor access to Thunder Hole from about April 1 to May 22, which is the Friday before Memorial Day.
“During that period, a crane will be located in the left-hand lane [of the Park Loop Road] there, so that lane will be closed to traffic,” he said. “The parking lot will remain open.”
Seal Cove Road
Johnston told the Acadia Advisory Commission last week that the Seal Cove Road project would consist of removing “damaged and outdated culverts and replacing them with fish-friendly culverts.”
To avoid interfering with fish passage, federal regulations require that the work be done between July 1 and Oct. 1.
Johnston said the contract has not yet been awarded, so he doesn’t know exactly when the work will start. But he said Seal Cove Road would be closed for about two months. It will take that long, he said, because the new culverts are so large.
Johnston said replacement of the culverts had originally been scheduled for last summer.
“We postponed this work so that we weren’t blocking traffic from using Seal Cove Road while [Main Street in] Southwest Harbor was under construction,” he said. “We’ve been working closely with Southwest Harbor to make sure that they’ll be open through downtown [this year].”
The Main Street reconstruction project is scheduled to be largely completed by June 30.
Acadia Superintendent Sheridan Steele explained that funding for the infrastructure projects is completely separate from the park’s operating budget.
“I know there’s a lot of public confusion,” he said. “When they see a road being paved or other work being done, they wonder, ‘If Acadia’s budget is so tight, how can they do that?’ Well, it’s totally separate pots of money.”
Steele said Johnston and his staff do a good job of applying for money for facilities projects through various federal funding sources.
Johnston said that, in many cases, money received for specific projects is the result of “funding requests we submitted years ago.”