Traffic triggers closures of Cadillac Mountain summit road

Acadia National Park temporarily closed the road to the Cadillac Mountain summit to incoming vehicles seven different times on Sunday and Monday, underscoring the need for a comprehensive transportation plan at the park, according to a park official.

Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant at Acadia National Park

Amanda Dilley, one of four new visitor service assistants for Acadia National Park, monitors a long line of traffic at the summit of Cadillac Mountain on Monday. Park officials temporarily closed the popular mountain to incoming motorists on four separate occasions that day.

Because of traffic congestion during the busy July 4 weekend, even a quieter side of the park – the Schoodic section – saw a closure for about 90 minutes on Sunday on the road between the entrance to Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) and Schoodic Point, according to a table of official road closures.

Ocean Drive, which provides access to Sand Beach, was closed a little more than 15 minutes on Monday afternoon.

John T. Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, said his feeling is that the closures are “making our transportation plan all that more pertinent.”

The National Park Service is developing a new transportation plan and considering several preliminary ideas to relieve Acadia traffic congestion and boost safety during peak visitation, including a reservation system for cars to drive up Cadillac or to park at Jordan Pond.

The Cadillac Mountain summit attracted many visitors on Sunday and Monday, which were both sunny days following a couple of overcast days. The road to Cadillac was closed three times on Sunday, including for about 90 minutes near the sun set, when the peak is a big draw, and four separate times on Monday, including again for about an hour because of crowds during a spectacular sun set.

There were no closures on Saturday, a cloudy day, or July 4, when many visitors apparently left.

Kelly said the Cadillac Mountain summit road is closed to further incoming cars when traffic is bumper to bumper from the parking lot at the peak to the Blue Hill Overlook. The overlook is about a quarter of a mile from the lot at the Cadillac Mountain summit.

Kelly said none of the closures lasted a very long time.

“While it is a disruption for sure for the visitor, it is not catastrophic,” he said.

acadia national park

Good weather and crowds contributed to temporary road shutdowns throughout Acadia during the July 4 weekend.

Cadillac Mountain summit traffic monitoring addresses congestion

If the Cadillac Mountain summit road is shut for incoming motorists, for example, there are plenty of other opportunities for enjoying the park, he said.

Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards at Acadia National Park

Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards at Acadia National Park, stands in front of a long row of vehicles parked along the Cadillac Mountain Road on Monday. Ley helped with traffic flow on the peak.

Kelly said the park’s four visitor service assistants,  who are part of a new effort, and members of the Friends of Acadia’s Summit Stewards were very helpful in helping monitor traffic

“They were the eyes and ears for a lot of these closures,” Kelly said.

Stephanie Ley, coordinator of the Summit Stewards, and Amanda Dilley, visitor service assistant, worked together on Monday on the Cadillac Mountain summit when parking was often tight. “It’s going really good,” Ley said. “This is one of the busiest weekends of the summer.”

The Summit Stewards, which include the coordinator and 7 stewards, all financed by the Friends of Acadia, provide information to visitors, and have other duties such as conducting basic trail  maintenance, repairing cairns, removing visitor-built cairns and rock art, responding to emergencies, communicating with park managers, and collecting data about weather, car and bus traffic, visitor usage, and visitor behaviors, according to the Friends of Acadia web site.

The visitor service assistants have been at work for about three weeks, and are new to the park this year, Kelly said. They are working in a pilot program to help inform and shape the park’s transportation plan, a press release said.

Cars parked along Ocean Drive

In addition to parking lots at Sand Beach, people find spots along the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road in order to walk to the beach at Acadia National Park.

The most likely posts for the visitor service assistants are the Cadillac Mountain summit, Ocean Drive near Sand Beach and the big parking lot near the boat launch at Jordan Pond, according to Kelly. Their location could depend on the weather, the time of the day or the day of the week, he said.

“They are there to help guide visitors when dealing with challenging traffic or parking situations,” he said.

Other proposals for a transportation plan include 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 achieved.

The park took public comments on the early proposals for improving traffic flow. People, for example, provided ideas online and also at two public hearings last November.

The park is hopeful that various alternatives will be presented in a draft Environmental Impact Statement by December of this year.

People will get the opportunity to comment on the draft report during a second round of public meetings, or online, email or by phone, he said.

Based on that input, a final decision is expected in December of next year.

Other scenes in Acadia National Park during a busy July 4 weekend

Park rules say no parking on the Bar Island sandbar, which is exposed only during low tide. New signs warn people to be aware of the incoming tide, and list a phone number for a water taxi ride for $150 if they’re stranded on Bar Island.

People at Echo Lake in Acadia National Park

Echo Lake, a well-liked swimming spot at Acadia National Park, was so crowded on Sunday that the parking lot was full at least for a period in the afternoon.

Traffic congestion on Cadillac Mountain

Motorists on Monday back up on the peak of Cadillac Mountain to obtain a parking space.

Cars in line at Sand Beach Entrance Station

Cars queue up in front of the Sand Beach Entrance Station on July 4 at Acadia National Park. Overcast skies and the next day being a workday helped keep the crowds down a little.

 

Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

About Dolores Kong & Dan Ring

Dolores Kong and Dan Ring are co-authors of the Falcon guides Hiking Acadia National Park and Best Easy Day Hikes Acadia National Park, and also blog at acadiaonmymind.com. They’ve backpacked the 270-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and are members of the Northeast 111 Club, having hiked all major peaks of the Northeast. Dolores is a former staff reporter at The Boston Globe. Dan is a journalist and former Statehouse bureau chief in Boston for the old Ottaway News Service and for The Republican, the daily newspaper for Springfield, Mass. They are married and live outside Boston.