A line of buses occupies scores of parking spaces atop Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park last summer. Park officials closed the road to the top of the mountain three times over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Traffic closes Cadillac road: Visitation up 20 percent



ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Officials here believe the Independence Day weekend may have set a record for the number of visitors. Sales of weekly passes during the period July 1 through July 4 were up 20 percent over last year, which also was a record.

Preliminary year-to-date visitation statistics through the end of June show overall visitation up around 21 percent. “Those aren’t the final numbers, but the message is ‘we’re very busy,’ ” said park Spokesman John Kelley on Wednesday.

Three times over the holiday weekend, including twice in one day, rangers were forced to shut down access to the Cadillac Mountain road because of gridlock at the summit. On both Saturday and Sunday evenings, the road was closed off around 7:30 p.m. until after sunset when the number of vehicles filled with visitors hoping to catch the sunset from atop the 1,532-foot peak exceeded the road and parking lot capacity.

The summit also was closed off again on Sunday afternoon from around 1:30 p.m. until 3 p.m.

“When it backs up past the Blue Hill Overlook, we stop letting cars up,” said Ranger Darren Belskis. He explained that a ranger at the top radioed down to another at the beginning of the road. A mobile traffic information sign and barricades were used to close off the traffic flow.

Traffic throughout the park, especially on Sunday, was frequently at a standstill, rangers said. Dealing with traffic congestion and illegally parked cars was the most frequent problem rangers had to deal with over the weekend.

Even at 6 p.m., the right lane along Ocean Drive from the entrance fee station to just before Thunder Hole continued to be lined with parked cars.

Officials at another agency that deals directly with the summer crowds, the Island Explorer, believe the weekend set records as well.

“It was indeed slammed,” said Paul Murphy. Overall use of the free shuttle buses is up 18 percent year-to-date. Last year’s use also set records.

“Traffic near Sand Beach was backed up bumper to bumper through the pay station at times on Saturday,” Murphy said. “We ran late in heavily congested areas, and there were a few occasions when buses had to refuse additional passengers due to limited capacity,” he said.

“We did keep some routes active later than scheduled and sent buses out to do “clean up” around the Loop Road to gather stragglers.”

According to organizers of the annual Rotary Club of MDI Seafood Festival in Bar Harbor, Saturday’s crowds set records.

The club broke its previous record, raising more than $37,000. The 69 club members sold more than 450 lobster dinners and served more than 500 people at the annual blueberry pancake breakfast. The net proceeds will be given back to the community through support of the Park Street Playground’s revitalization, scholarships and nonprofits organizations.

 

Earl Brechlin

Earl Brechlin

Editor at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander editor Earl Brechlin first discovered Mount Desert Island 35 years ago and never left. The author of seven guide and casual history books, he is a Registered Maine Guide and has served as president of the Maine and New England Press Associations. He and his wife live in Bar Harbor.
Earl Brechlin

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