ACADIA NAT’L PARK — It’s said that numbers don’t lie. But they don’t always speak very clearly.
That’s the case with the most recent report on park visitation this year. It shows that, through September, the estimated number of visitors to Acadia was nearly 2.94 million, an increase of 4.1 percent over the first nine months of last year.
However, those figures do not represent an apples-to-apples comparison. Prior to this year, no Island Explorer bus passengers were included in the visitor count. Now, people are counted if they get off an Island Explorer bus anywhere in the park. That number through September was 138,701.
Had those bus passengers not been counted as park visitors, the number of visitors in the first nine months of this year would have been slightly lower than last year’s figure.
The visitation report showed that the number of people coming to the Mount Desert Island section of the park this September — not including bus riders — was down about 1 percent from the same month last year, which contributed to a drop of 2.1 percent for the first nine months. But that, too, is a misleading comparison.
Visitation numbers for the park overall include people who take tours with the park’s two sightseeing concessionaires, and those tours are only offered in the MDI section of the park. This year, through September, tour company Oli’s Trolley saw a passenger increase of 27.8 percent, while National Park Tours carried 15.3 percent more passengers. Together, the two companies brought 39,838 people into the park, an increase of 7,602 over last year.
The number of people entering the park in other commercial vehicles, including the buses hired to carry cruise ship passengers, has been way up this year as well. Large coach buses saw a 17 percent increase through September with 43,335 passengers. Passenger vans accounted for 7,930 park visitors, an increase of 61.2 percent. And nearly all of the bus and van trips were to the MDI section of the park.
So, the park’s report indicating that the number of visitors to the MDI section through September was down slightly is somewhat misleading because it only accounted for visitors in private vehicles. With the increase in the number of commercial bus and van passengers entering Acadia, total visitation to the MDI section was actually up a fraction.
The section of the park on the Schoodic Peninsula recorded 258,774 visitors through September, up 4.3 percent from the same period last year. Isle au Haut’s visitation number was 8,425, an increase of 1.4 percent.
Acadia remains the eighth most-visited of the 59 national parks.