Buy a pass

It was inevitable that the entrance fees and camping fees in Acadia National Park would go up. The annual entrance pass price is increasing for next season from $40 to $50. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that folks have until Christmas to get annual passes for half price. They will be on sale at the Island Explorer office downtown during the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce Midnight Madness Sale on Dec. 5. They also are available until Christmas at the park’s headquarters and winter visitor’s center on the Eagle Lake Road.

Any U.S. Citizen over age 62 can purchase a Senior Pass that covers park admission for the holder as well as up to four adults in a vehicle in national parks that charge by the person (there is no charge for children under age 16). The one-time cost is only $20. Those with disabilities may obtain access passes at no charge.

Because of the numerous Acadia entrances and exits, it has been difficult to confirm all of the park’s 2.5 million annual visitors have paid the fee. When a fee was first imposed, at a modest $5 per week per vehicle, a cottage industry of sorts sprang up among residents and seasonal employees advising visitors how to avoid the single entrance station or helping people share the passes. Over time, however, folks have come to understand that because part of the fee remains in the park and helps support programs that mitigate visitor impact, such as the Island Explorer bus system, helping someone avoid paying only ends up hurting the place we all know and love.

As federal budgets have gotten tighter and funding for the national park service has not kept pace with inflation, other sources of revenue become even more important. It is only fair that area residents, among the most frequent users of the park, do their fair share.

The importance Acadia places on entrance fee revenue will be readily apparent next year, and in successive seasons, as more robust enforcement of entrance fee and permit requirements is rolled out. Last year, the park installed a system of signs notifying visitors as they enter a fee area. By switching from a windshield decal to an individual pass system next season, additional compliance will become part of the equation.

For year-round residents and regular summer visitors, there’s a special sense of connection to, or ownership of, the park. There is no better way to celebrate that relationship than to do your part – buy a pass.

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