Pay to play

Acadia National Park crews worked overtime this spring to get the Park Loop Road ready to open after a long and difficult winter. While the carriage roads remain closed until the ground firms up, most popular spots, including Ocean Drive, Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond and the summit of Cadillac Mountain, are open.

As announced last fall, the park is shifting this spring to an individual entry pass system. Gone are the colorful windshield stickers that allowed passage through the fee station near Sand Beach. Instead, visitors will need to display a pass on their dashboards or on a hangtag, no matter where they are in the park. Initially, vehicles that don’t display a pass will get a warning note. Eventually, tickets may be issued.

As evidenced in the recent past, when Acadia opened late or cut seasonal positions and operating hours due to budget restrictions, assuring adequate funding for the park is a top priority. Increasingly, Acadia’s operations depend on money brought in by entrance passes, as much of that money remains here. It helps fund the popular Island Explorer shuttle bus system and pays for other facilities and programs that enhance the visitor experience.

That is why it is imperative that as many as possible of the park’s 2.5 million annual visitors, as well as area residents who enjoy the park on a regular basis, purchase a user pass. They are available at facilities around the park and at some area businesses.

Because Acadia has so many entrances and exits, but only one fee station, some people have ignored for years the fact that, under federal law, the entire park is a “fee area” where a pass is required. Now that the system of individual passes (at least one per vehicle) is in place, scofflaws may find it less easy to shirk that responsibility.

Most folks will pay the user fee because it is the law. But let’s all join in educating our visitors and ourselves to the importance of supporting the Park’s fee system to keep this valuable natural resource strong and protected for years to come.

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