ACADIA NAT’L PARK — The Hulls Cove Visitor Center will still be small when it reopens sometime between late May and late June following an extensive renovation, but it will be able to accommodate more people much more efficiently.
The $1.2 million project involves a complete reconfiguration of the area where visitors get maps and information and buy park entrance passes. That area also will be larger because the bookstore is moving out of the main room at the visitor center and into what has been the theater where the park’s orientation film was shown.
“People will still be able to see the film by accessing it on their personal devices,” said Christie Anastasia, the park’s public affairs specialist. “So much introductory material about the park is online now, so you can see the film before you get here.”
The theater could comfortably seat fewer than 100 people.
Anastasia, along with the park’s Facility Project Manager Bill Doerrer and Bar Harbor architect Geoffrey Fraser, who designed the renovation, showed members of the news media around the visitor center as construction crews were working Monday. That was April 15, the date the visitor center typically opens to the public each year.
Until the Hulls Cove facility opens in a month or two, visitors can get information and buy entrance passes at the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce visitor center in downtown Bar Harbor and, starting April 20, at the Sieur de Monts Nature Center in the park.
Most of the Hulls Cove Visitor Center renovations are designed to relieve the long lines and crowding in the building and to reduce the noise level that has increased along with visitation. Anastasia said that more than a few visitors have written letters complaining about the noise.
Noting that the visitor center was built in 1967, Fraser said, “That was a time when the park was seeing about 275,000 visits per year. Now we’re up to over 3.5 million. So, it really was not meeting the needs of the park’s visitors.”
In 1988, Anastasia worked at the information desk and in the bookstore in the visitor center. She said very little has changed since then except for the huge increase in the number of visitors. She said that in recent years there have been days when the line of people waiting to get into the visitor center has trailed out the door and down the 52 steps to the parking lot.
“In August, you can easily see a thousand people an hour in here,” she said.
“What we really need is a brand new visitor center. But these [renovations] are going to get us through the next five to 10 years.”
Most of the funding for the renovation project is coming from visitor entrance fees. Eastern National, the non-profit organization that operates the visitor center’s bookstore, is providing some financial assistance.
The general contractor for the Hulls Cove Visitor Center renovation is King Construction Services of Jonesport and Ellsworth.
“They are doing an absolutely wonderful job,” Fraser said.
Park officials hope the visitor center can open by the end of May. But Doerrer, the project manager, said that under the contract, King has until June 20 to finish the job.
“Anything before that is going to be a bonus,” he said.