Editorial: Give fees a chance

During the partial federal government shutdown earlier this year, local residents rushed to support furloughed park employees and those expected to work without pay. We railed at the unfair system that would put them in such a difficult position.

That fellow-feeling is part of the relationship between people on Mount Desert Island and the national park that shares our island. Another part is long-simmering frustration that the National Park Service’s rules and decisions are outside our local control. Year-round residents, it’s often argued, ought to receive special consideration. And we do, in the form of reduced-price park passes available in December. We also benefit from park resources and programs that would be difficult for visitors to access — school programs, internships and research, to name a few.

Acadia’s long-range transportation plan, unveiled last week, was needed because the current use patterns put the park’s rangers in another difficult position.

It’s not just the visitors who are unhappy or inconvenienced when a road is closed due to congestion or traffic is unmanageable. It’s also the staff charged with ensuring that “park resources and values are protected and visitors are able to enjoy… high-quality experiences.”

“On an average, beautiful summer morning, there are 450 cars parked at the summit of Cadillac, where we have 150 parking spaces,” Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider said last year. “So there are basically 150 cars parked legally and 300 parked everywhere, many in unsafe locations.”

It can’t be fun to be the ranger turning people away on the now-frequent occasions when Ocean Drive or Cadillac Summit Road are closed. Or the ranger pleading with people (visitors and residents alike) not to park in places that are clearly marked “prohibited.”

They can’t be expected to go on doing that. So the transportation plan calls for visitors to make advance reservations (and pay a fee) to drive on Ocean Drive between the entrance station and Otter Cliff Road, on Cadillac Summit Road, and to park in the north lot at Jordan Pond, during the day in peak season (mid-June through mid-October).

For the sake of the hardworking folks who are our neighbors, if not for the visitors from around the country who are the park’s co-owners, let’s hope the local community can draw on the fellow-feeling and give the transportation plan a chance.

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