Acadia proposes parking reservation system

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Acadia National Park in coastal Maine has released a draft planning document presenting possible actions to address increasing visitor vehicle traffic. The park's Draft Transportation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement proposes to adopt a timed-entry reservation system for some parking lots and roads in the park. The issue raises questions about infrastructure in national parks, and how to balance competing interests in resource management.

A coastal scene near Acadia National Park.

According to the National Park Service, annual visitation to Acadia National park grew by 58% between 2006 and 2016, exceeding 3 million visits per year. Most of these visits occur from June to October. But while visitor traffic has increased, some park infrastructure hasn't kept up with demand. For example, the Park Service has said that parking spaces in many areas are insufficient to meet visitor needs, and that increased traffic volumes and speeds have created safety issues, resource protection concerns, and adverse impacts to visitor enjoyment.

To address these issues, the National Park Service has proposed changes to how it manages Acadia National Park. On April 26, 2018, Acadia National Park posted its Draft Transportation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It identifies a preferred alternative (labeled "Alternative C" in the report) and proposed action focused on management of certain corridors within the park .

Alternative C would start by establishing a timed-entry reservation system for the Ocean Drive corridor, Cadillac Summit Road, and the Jordan Pond House North Lot during peak use season, with an adaptive management strategy that could lead to an expansion of the area within which reservations would be required. Alternative C also includes an eventual elimination of right-lane parking along the Park Loop Road, plus changes to some parking lots, among other items.

Beyond the corridor management plan presented as Alternative C, the Draft Transportation Plan also considers alternatives including taking no action, a site-specific management approach, and systemwide management of the Park Loop Road.

The National Park Service has invited public comments on Acadia's Draft Transportation Plan and EIS until June 26. The agency will hold public meetings and information sessions in the area, as well as a virtual online session.

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