BAR HARBOR — The town council is asking Acadia National Park officials to include the town in more of the conversations about the park’s transportation plan.
The public comment period on the draft plan ended June 26. The “preferred alternative” in the plan includes implementing a reservation system at popular visitor destinations in the park.
The requests were made in a letter to park officials drafted by Town Planner Janna Richards and approved by councilors June 19. The letter also requests that public comments from Bar Harbor residents submitted in response to the draft plan be shared with town officials.
National Park Service officials decided comments submitted by individuals should not be made public because doing so could be a violation of the federal Privacy Act.
Richards cited the proposed expansion of parking at the Hulls Cove Visitor’s Center, which could double available parking there. And the proposed elimination of right-lane parking on the Park Loop Road could cause more congestion in town she said.
“If you can’t park in the park, people are going to be scrambling to find alternative places to park,” Richards said.
Richard also questioned the role the Bar Harbor Police Department will be asked to play alongside park rangers and state police in enforcing the new rules. The town could be strapped for resources if the police were expected to play a significant role, the letter said.
Council Chair Gary Friedmann leveled criticism at the park for sealing public comments off to the public and town officials. He said that policy “would never fly in the town of Bar Harbor.”
“We’ve been very inclusive of having park people take part in our parking and cruise ship discussions, yet we’re locked out of really being able to participate in how the park digests and analyzes information,” he said. “For some reason, the NPS is not making comments public so we don’t have the opportunity to see what Bar Harbor residents are saying.”
Councilor Judie Noonan said there should be a pass available for locals who want to enjoy spontaneously access to the park.
“I would not like to see residents restricted from the park,” Councilor Joe Minutolo said.
In response to Minutolo, Vice Chair Matthew Hochman said Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider has been diligently listening to local concerns about the new plan.
“I believe Kevin is very, very aware of those sentiments,” he said. “Whether that means anything to the folks that make the final decision, I don’t know. I’m very confident, at least at the local level, that the park is hearing our concerns.”