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Updated: June 8, 2021

Acadia National Park expects record-breaking year

Courtesy / National Park Service Photo, Kent Miller Photographers in Acadia National Park jockey for spots along a rocky ocean coastline as sunset approaches.

Memorial Day weekend might have been all rain and gloom, but that didn’t stop visitors from flocking to Acadia National Park.

It’s likely a sign of things to come this year, Acadia’s superintendent, Kevin Schneider, told the park’s Advisory Commission at its virtual meeting on Monday.

“This is going to be a really busy summer,” he said, and added that he expected “a record-breaking year.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, every parking lot was full, he said.

“The weather was by and large horrible. And yet, there was a lot of interest in the park,” he continued. 

Schneider attributed travel trends to newly vaccinated visitors wanting to take deferred vacations.

Traffic volume crossing onto Mount Desert Island was up 6% from Memorial Day 2019, a figure that reinforced the anecdotal evidence that visitation was high, he reported.

May numbers are not yet available, but through the first four months of the year Acadia had 184,548 visitors, up from 110,351 last year and about 105,000 in 2019, according to the National Park Service.

Acadia is among the top 10 most popular national parks in the United States, with more than 3.5 million visits per year. Visitation has surged almost 60% in a decade. According to National Park Service statistics, Acadia had over 3.4 million visitors in 2019.

National parks across the U.S. have seen visitor increases compared with 2019. Overall visitation to the 419 parks in the national park system in 2019 was 327.5 million, the third-highest total since record-keeping began in 1904.

At Acadia, the trends were reflected in the figures for this past winter. December 2020 saw a steep visitor increase of 65% from December 2019. 

A new visitor hotspot is the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. Located on Mount Desert Island’s less-visited western side, the National Park Service last year finalized its acquisition of the lighthouse from the U.S. Coast Guard. Subsequently listed as a park attraction, it generated considerably more traffic and overflow parking in the residential neighborhood adjacent to the lighthouse.

The park is looking into the traffic issue and plans to work on solutions with the National Park Service’s Washington, D.C., office, as well as with the town of Tremont and the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, said Management Assistant John Kelly.



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