By Will Schroeder
The ongoing U.S. Park Service experiment to control access to Acadia National Park has been an eye opener for those of us who live nearby, travel and recreate on Schooner Head Road. It has resulted in fast, dangerous and heavy traffic on what was once a rural road. Many of us living along Schooner Head Road are concerned for the safety of walkers, bikers, town workers, JAX employees and the local community, not to mention the intense disruption in the form of sound and visual clutter.
There is now a steady stream of vehicles traveling in both directions at speeds well in excess of the posted 35 mph (I’d estimate that 50 mph is not uncommon). In comparison, at the same time, the Park Loop Road, a one-way two-lane road, appears to carry less than half the number of cars. This is because many visitors, following mapping apps like Google Maps, are directed to the park entrance down Schooner Head Road. In addition, many visitors reaching the park gates without reservations (either from Schooner Head or the Park Loop roads) are now turned away and must return via Schooner Head Road. Anecdotally, we’ve heard that some drivers who are refused entry are furious and express their anger by driving aggressively. My wife and I have personally witnessed two altercations in front of our house: bikers yelling at cars to slow down (and swearing never to bike Schooner Head Road again), and workers along the road who felt threatened by the heavy traffic shouting at passing cars.
While I understand the park’s desire to control access to Acadia, they must also consider the safety and well–being of the surrounding community. I would also like to see those in Bar Harbor involved with traffic safety help out. Personally, I think all car access to the park in the summer should be via larger roads such as Routes 3, 233, 198 or similar. For example, if the gated entrance to the Park Loop Road were via Sieur de Monts off Route 3 (instead of the current Schooner Head Road location), cars turned away would have to return on Route 3. Other entrances, such as Hulls Cove and Stanley Brook, are also better situated to handle heavy traffic. Then roads such as Schooner Head and Otter Cliff Road could be shut down to park access in the summer, with signs, clearly stating that park access was unavailable, posted at the entrance to the roads.
I fully appreciate what the National Park Service is attempting to do by building the Gateway Center, using more buses and limiting access to what is a national treasure. However, this needs to be done in such a way as to not push all the dangerous traffic into our local community on small side roads. In my opinion, the current situation is likely to result in injury and serious harm to the quality of life for the community, if not addressed promptly.
Will Schroeder resides in Bar Harbor.