The National Park Service is floating several proposals to ease Acadia traffic congestion and improve safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond House.
Other key preliminary ideas include eliminating parking in the right hand lane on the one-way section of the Park Loop Road to improve Acadia traffic flow and allowing cars to enter Ocean Drive past the entrance station until certain thresholds for parking and road volumes are reached.
Under the preliminary idea for freeing up parking and ensuring free traffic flow on Ocean Drive, additional vehicles would be cleared to drive past the entrance station as capacity permits, with drivers getting information in various ways and getting the option to wait or leave via Schooner Head Road or sooner at Sieur de Monts.
The proposals are just “conversation starters” by the park service, as part of an effort to release a final transportation plan for the park in the fall of 2018. The possibilities are being aired after a summer of strong attendance during the Centennial year caused closure sometimes of the Cadillac Summit Road and full lots at Jordan Pond during busy times.
Already through September, 2.82 million people visited the park, slightly more than all of last year, which set a 20-year-high, according to park statistics. Visitation at Acadia is likely to top 3 million this year, after October numbers are tallied.
The early proposals were spelled out for the first time in a 12-page newsletter of “preliminary concepts” released this month and will be aired during two public meetings this week, Nov. 2 and Nov. 3.
Park service wants public input on alternative Acadia traffic proposals
The park service will take public comment on the preliminary concepts during a meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 3, at Mount Desert Island High School in Bar Harbor.
A separate meeting will be held near the Schoodic section of the park from 6:30 to 8:30 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Peninsula School in Prospect Harbor.
Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said the preliminary concepts are an important milestone in the effort to manage congestion and improve safety at the park.
“The preliminary concepts serve as conversation starters and represent a variety of possibilities that may be included in the long-term management framework for Acadia,” Schneider said in a prepared statement. “We have not yet identified a preferred alternative and encourage the public to provide input and participate in this important planning process.”
The preliminary proposals are part of the effort to create a new transportation plan for the park.
In addition to the public meetings, people can comment on the preliminary concepts through Nov. 30 on the Internet and in writing.
As part of planning that began last year, the park service has already received 300 correspondences from individuals and organizations and these ideas were used to develop the range of preliminary concepts in the newsletter.
As part of the planning process, alternatives will be included in a draft transportation plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement expected to be released early next year. A final plan and Environmental Impact Statement with a record of decision are scheduled to be released in the fall of 2018, according to a planning schedule in the newsletter.
A reservation system for cars to drive to Cadillac Mountain summit and park at the Jordan Pond House would be for better managing Acadia traffic and for providing greater assurances for planning trips to the park, the newsletter said.
Also, if traffic lines become too long or unmanageable under a “metering system” for Ocean Drive, then a possibility is to establish a private vehicle reservation system for the famed road that includes attractions such as Thunder Hole, the Beehive and Sand Beach.
Acadia isn’t the only National Park grappling with crowds and traffic. Zion National Park is currently updating its visitor use management plan, which could lead to visitor limits.
Other preliminary proposals for handling Acadia traffic:
- Designate hours for bicyclists on the Cadillac Summit Road.
- Replace commercial tour vehicle access to the Park Loop Road and Cadillac Mountain with a concession bus operation. Large tour groups arriving by commercial tour bus or by cruise ship would transfer to the concession bus in order to enter the park.
- Park entrances would be consolidated to a primary new entrance station at Paradise Hill Road, or the segment of Park Loop Road from Hulls Cove Visitor Center to Route 233 and a secondary entrance at Stanley Brook Road. An advance reservation would be needed to proceed past the entrance stations during peak times.
- The two-way section of Park Loop Road between Cadillac Mountain and Jordan Pond House would become one way to boost safety for bicyclists.
- To make Route 233 safer, informal parking on the highway would be replaced with a new parking area at the Liscomb gravel pit with a trail connection to the carriage roads.
The proposals are grouped into 4 broad categories for Mount Desert Island, and 2 for the Schoodic section of the park, under these titles:
- MDI-1: Increased Public Transit and Parking Reservations
- MDI-2: Traffic Metering and Parking Reservations
- MDI-3: Vehicle Access Reservation System
- MDI-4: Park Loop Road Public Transit
- Schoodic 1: Peak Season Reservation System
- Schoodic 2: Peak Season Car-Free Access
The park wants people to let them know what they think would work and why, what wouldn’t work and why, and any other strategies that should be considered.