By Dick Broom and Samuel Shepherd
BAR HARBOR — If Acadia National Park institutes a reservation system for entering some parts of the park during busy summer days, it should not apply to local residents, or at least they shouldn’t have to pay for reservations, several people said at a public comment session on the park’s draft transportation plan Tuesday night.
A few dozen people attended the informal event at Mount Desert Island High School.
Acadia staff members were stationed around the school gym to answer questions about the transportation plan and to write people’s comments and suggestions on flip charts.
One element of the park’s “preferred alternative” plan is to require people to make reservations to drive on the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road and the Cadillac Mountain Road and to park in the North lot at Jordan Pond at peak times during the summer months. Fees charged for reservations would pay for a contractor to administer the reservation system and for expansion of the fare-free Island Explorer bus system.
Here are some of the opinions that people expressed about the proposed reservation system:
“Locals should have a special sticker to be able to go to the park without a reservation. We live here. The traffic is not our fault. We pay taxes to live here.”
“A reservation system would be acceptable as long as there are times during the day when reservations are not needed.”
“There should be a local resident’s pass for registered voters.”
“I visit the park daily and am not interested in getting a reservation every day.”
“I support reservations for Cadillac, but not the other locations.”
“I’m concerned about people gaming the reservation system, overbooking to get passes.”
Comments unrelated to the proposed reservation system included:
“Do something for volunteers so they don’t have to pay to park. Increase volunteers with incentives.”
“Have VIP parking for people who support the park.”
“The Island Explorer is the key. Increase service.”
“Remove retail [the gift shop] on Cadillac. It causes people to linger.”
“Acadia Mountain parking is a huge risk.”
Bar Harbor Town Council
At last week’s Bar Harbor Town Council meeting, councilors spoke with park Superintendent Kevin Schneider about potential impacts to the town from implementation of parts of the draft transportation plan.
Councilor Matt Hochman said Bar Harbor residents he had spoken with were concerned about spur-of-the-moment trips to the park being more difficult with a reservation system for park attractions being implemented.
Councilor Peter St. Germain asked if proposed expansion of the Island Explorer bus system would conflict with tour services that also take visitors through the park. Schneider said because the two services offer different services — buses simply drop people off, and tours offer insight about the park and concessions — he did not anticipate conflicts.
Councilor Erin Cough asked whether another hub for the Island Explorer system could be added, to complement the existing hub on Firefly Lane. Schneider said the Hulls Cove Visitor Center would be a prime location for a hub. The parking lot there, which currently has 270 parking spots, could have as many as 250 more under proposed plans.
Councilor Gary Friedmann said he was skeptical of the additional parking at Hulls Coves and Liscomb Pit because he believes demand for parking would still be more than the park’s lots could handle. He was concerned about the backflow of vehicles inundating the already-congested downtown Bar Harbor area.
The National Park Service is accepting public comment on Acadia’s draft transportation plan through June 26. Comments may be submitted online at go.nps.gov/AcadiaPlan.