Acadia’s Proposed Entrance Fee Increase Will Help Fund Critical Projects
March 11th, 2023
March 11th, 2023
BY SHANNON BRYAN AND LORI SCHAEFER
Acadia National Park has proposed increasing visitor entrance fees this year by $5 for 7-day private vehicle, motorcycle, and individual passes, and $15 for the park’s annual pass.
The park will still offer free passes to select groups, including: military veterans, people with permanent disabilities, fourth grade students, and park volunteers. There are also several fee-free days annually.
Friends of Acadia supports the proposed increase because it will fund critically needed transportation and infrastructure projects, including expanding environmentally friendly access to the park by the fare-free, propane-powered Island Explorer buses.
In the last few years, entrance fee revenue has funded hiking trail projects—including the installation of bog walk on Upper Hadlock Pond and Jordan Pond trails, the rehabilitation of Great Head and Parkman Mountains trails, and the replacement of trail bridges throughout the park.
Entrance fees also helped improve park facilities, including repairs to the historic carriage road gatehouses, removal of hazardous trees along park roads and powerlines, repairs to campground restrooms, and the replacement of damaged park road gates.
Acadia’s entrance fees fund 60-70 percent of the annual operation of the Island Explorer bus system to provide farefree service to hundreds of thousands of park visitors each year, reducing traffic congestion in the park and improving all visitors’ experiences.
Expanding transportation services is even more critical as park visitation rises. The proposed entrance fee increase will help fund the expansion of the Island Explorer, including more frequent service to the Acadia Gateway Center once construction is completed.
In addition to the repair, maintenance, and enhancement of visitor facilities, the park is prioritizing fee revenue to provide seasonal ranger presence and maintenance personnel across the park.
Acadia last raised its entrance fee in 2018; the proposed increase would bring Acadia’s fees in line with other iconic
national parks around the country, including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Yosemite, and Zion National Parks.
Acadia belongs among such good company. It experiences a comparable number of visits as those popular parks — a record-setting 4 million visits in 2021 and more than 3.9 million in 2022, making the last two years the busiest ever. That’s about 14 percent above the pre-pandemic record in 2018.
Compare Acadia’s 4 million visits in 2021 with Grand Teton’s 3.9 million visits and Grand Canyon’s 4.5 million the same year. It’s worth noting that Acadia is a great deal smaller than those sister parks, and the concentration of visitors amplifies their impact.
National parks belong to all of us, and Friends of Acadia wants the park to be accessible and enjoyed by all for generations to come. But increased visitation presents added challenges for park staff and additional stress on the park’s resources: crowding, congestion, and wear-and-tear to Acadia’s trails, roads, and facilities.
Like all national parks, Acadia receives federal funding, although the base appropriation has certainly has not kept pace with inflation over the last 20 years.
While visitation grows and associated resource challenges increase, base federal funding remains stagnant relative to the cost of living. And those funds mostly pay for staff, leaving entrance fees to try to cover the costs of a swelling list of park infrastructure projects.
It’s a troublesome scenario. There is no question that our national parks, including Acadia, need more financial support at this time of growing interest and expectations.
Friends of Acadia will continue to provide philanthropic financial assistance, and work with the Maine congressional delegation to advocate for increased federal funding.
In a public comment period from Nov. 29-Dec. 29, 2022, the park received 115 comments with 70 percent of those being
supportive. Some asked for reduced fees for local residents.
The National Park Service had not yet approved the fee increase at the time this story was published. A decision is expected this spring, and it will take some time to implement.
Acadia belongs to us all. Entrance fees help keep it safe, accessible, and beautiful for future generations.