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Acadia Sets Vehicle Reservations Test

BAR HARBOR, MAINE — The National Park Service has developed a vehicle reservation system to reduce severe traffic and parking congestion so visitors can plan ahead and have a more enjoyable visit to Acadia National Park. As a pilot to prepare for the 2021 season, reservations will be required for vehicles to enter the Sand Beach Entrance and Cadillac Summit Road from October 1 to 18, 2020. Vehicle reservations are available for purchase only online at   

“The majority of the park is open just as it has always been, including access to all of the carriage roads and all but a few hiking trails,” said Superintendent Kevin Schneider. “If you want to visit the park’s most popular areas during peak times with your vehicle, you now have the opportunity to guarantee access with a reservation. If you walk or bike into a vehicle reservation area, reservations are not required.” 

The Sand Beach Entrance will require vehicle reservations from 7 am to 5 pm. The Cadillac Summit Road will require vehicle reservations from 4:30 am to 6:30 pm. All reservations provide a timed entry, but do not require a departure time. Reservations do not guarantee a specific parking space. If you leave the area with your vehicle, you need another reservation to re-enter. In addition to having a valid entrance pass, reservations must be purchased for $2.00 each online; reservations will not be sold at the park.  Commercial tour operators with a valid Commercial Use Authorization and accredited school groups with an authorized entrance fee waiver do not require vehicle reservation during the pilot in OctoberConducting a pilot of the vehicle reservation system in October will help the park prepare a full season of vehicle reservations in 2021. 

“Providing a positive visitor experience is in the best interest of the business community here in Bar Harbor and around Acadia,” said Alf Anderson, Executive Director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce. “Knowing in advance when a family will have a convenient place to park while they watch the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain, marvel at Thunder Hole, or play on Sand Beach will make their visit to Acadia National Park more relaxing and enjoyable.” 

“Friends of Acadia is very encouraged to see this first step toward a timed reservation system for vehicles to enter the busiest sites in the park during peak times,” said FOA president David MacDonald. “We have heard again and again from visitors about the frustration of being stuck in traffic or turned away when the Cadillac Summit Road or Sand Beach Entrance become gridlocked by over-crowding. Having the ability to pre-plan with a reservation, just as you would with a whale watch or a carriage ride or a dinner out, should provide more certainty and a better experience once in the park. “ 

Vehicle reservations are one management action of the Acadia National Park Transportation Plan, which is intended to improve visitor safety, reduce traffic and parking congestion, and protect park resources and values. Other components of the plan include enhancing Island Explorer bus service and developing the Acadia Gateway Center transit hub in Trenton and a new visitor center and parking area in Hulls Cove. 

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4 Responses to “Acadia Sets Vehicle Reservations Test”

  1. Maura McHugh

    I do not like the “new plan”. It sounds like another money grab to me. Is this “reservation fee” on top of what you already have to pay to get into the park? And if your reservation is for 11:00pm do you have to idle outside the gate should you arrive 10 minutes early or get turned away if you are ten minutes late? It takes all the spontaneity out of your Acadia vacation. Many times we are touring the island and on a whim decide to go up to Cadillac to see the view because perhaps the weather is particularly clear that day etc. For hikers like us, it is going to require a great deal of planning and red tape to enjoy the park. And what happens if it is pouring rain on the day you have “reserved” to hike the Precipice? Do you get to change your reservation or do you get hit again for a reservation fee?
    Someone is doing their best to take all the fun out of Acadia. The entire Island has become a slave to cruise ships and tour buses. I think the policy makers forget that campers, people who rent homes, B&Bs, hotel rooms etc all eat in the restaurants, buy at the shops, go to the bars, and take boat trips etc. thus stimulating the islands economy in a major way.
    Despite your attempt at painting a very rosy picture of the park’s plan, I can’t see how this is going to make things better. I think the plan stinks!!!!

  2. Cathy Brunick

    I have several questions with regard to this “vehicle reservation Plan”:
    1. How many reservations will be given out per hour/per day? Can you be refused a reservation time? Will refunds be given for any reason?
    2. Why are tour buses exempt from having to have a reservation when they are the main culprit for vehicular crowding?
    3. Who gets this $2.00 reservation fee?
    4. If I pay to go see the view from Cadillac Mountain why shouldn’t I get a parking space? It seems I’ve paid for a “reservation” and that should include a parking spot. Before, if I went up to the mountain and I couldn’t park, I either circle the lot until a space became available or I came back later. Now, if I paid for a “reservation” you can be sure that I’m not leaving until I can get out and walk up on the mountain.
    5. How will this reservation system be monitored? Will there be attendants at the turn offs to Cadillac and Sand Beach to enforce the system?

    I oppose this plan. To me it is geared for the tour bus operators at the expense of everyone else. The buses can come and go as they please while those of us who come up for a week, a weekend, or live in the area lose the spontaneity of going to the park when we want. Acadia National Park belongs to all American citizens whether they are riding in a tour bus or in their private vehicle. I shouldn’t have to pay to make a reservation to see my park because I either didn’t book a tour through a cruise ship or through some other private enterprise.
    Please go back to the drawing board.

    • Earl Brechlin

      Questions about details of the plan, such as the number of reservations, are still being hammered out by park officials, and should be directed to them. In general, while timing of multiple bus arrivals can cause congestion, each bus means there are not 30-50 private cars in the same area. Buses will still be required to use designated bus parking as they have in the past. That is why the final plan calls for more Island Explorer buses, and for additional, yet smaller, tour buses. Trying to create, and then administer a system with individual parking reservations is enormously complex. Official stress they will not be allowing more vehicles into an area than there are parking spaces., which will handle the reservations, is an umbrella for more than a dozen public land agencies. The $2 represents their fee. Once in place the actual fee, of which Acadia will receive a portion to administer and enforce the system, likely will be higher. Rangers will be monitoring for vehicles not displaying proper reservation credentials and will take enforcement action if warranted.

  3. Cathy Brunick

    Mr. Brechlin,
    Since there are only so many bus spaces it would make since to have the tours make reservations like everyone else – unless more spaces are going to be allotted to them and private vehicle spaces reduced – otherwise you will have mass congestion. I’ve been then and seen it.
    I agree that more Island Explorer buses need to be utilized. It is my believe that the Park Management is trying to get the vast majority of visitors to use those buses. But in order for that to happen there needs to be more of them, more dedicate routes, and pick up points that don’t require paying to park. Those buses could also eliminate the tour buses altogether. I would suggest that the Island Explorer have a pick up point at the Bar Harbor pier and the Agamont Park parking lot. Since the tour buses take up most of the parking in those areas anyway, they can discharge their passengers and the people can ride the Explorers to Cadillac Mountain or Sand Beach. When they are done site seeing they can catch the next Explorer to where they want to visit next or back to their tour bus/cruise ship.


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