Passengers board an Island Explorer bus at the Bar Harbor Village Green last Saturday, the day the buses began running for the season. The fare-free bus system set a ridership record of 580,245 passenger trips last year ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Acadia visits up through May

ACADIA NAT’L PARK — With cold, wet weather lingering well into April, park visitation was down by nearly 16,000 through the first four months of this year.

But it rebounded strongly in May and, by the end of the month, visitation was on another record-setting pace.

May visitation totaled 248,906, an 11.6 percent increase over May 2017. That pushed the number for January through May to 369,660, a 3 percent increase in visitation over the same period last year.

Sightseeing buses and vans that have park-issued commercial-use permits accounted for some of the increase in visitation in May. The number of coach buses entering the park rose from 40 in May 2017 to 52 last month. The number of vans went from 41 to 66.

The park doesn’t currently keep separate counts of buses carrying cruise ship passengers and so-called “overland” sightseeing buses.

“We do know that most of our motor coach or tour bus use is from the cruise ships,” said Acadia spokesman John Kelly.

He said that is true even when fall foliage brings more of the overland tour buses to the park, because a large percentage of Bar Harbor’s cruise ship visits are in September and October.

“The cruise ship use outpaces the overland tours even then, because they may have 20 [cruise ship buses] in a day,” Kelly said.

Acadia counted a record 3.3 million visits in 2016, the year that both Acadia and the National Service celebrated their centennials. Acadia eclipsed that record last year with 3.5 million visits and moved into seventh place on the list of America’s most-visited national parks.

The park calculates visitation each month using primarily two sources of data. One is an electronic traffic counter on the Park Loop Road near Sand Beach. That number is increased by a monthly “vehicle expansion multiplier” to account for vehicles in the park on a given day that do not pass over the traffic counter. That expanded vehicle number is then multiplied by a “persons-per-vehicle” average.

The number of tour bus passengers who are counted as park visitors is based on passenger counts submitted by the local tour operators and by the average number of passengers for the different sizes of buses that buy commercial vehicle entrance passes.

Acadia’s visitor count includes Island Explorer bus passengers who get off a bus anywhere in the park. That number last year was 145,009.

The bus system set an overall ridership record last year with 580,245 passenger trips for the season, which ran from June 23 through Oct. 9. That was an increase of 1 percent over the 2016 year total and 10 percent higher than the year before that.

The fare-free Island Explorer buses serve Acadia National Park and neighboring towns. Their 20th season began last Saturday.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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