Decades of Partnership, Planning, and Persistence Are Coming to Fruition


In 1999, Friends of Acadia joined 19 organizations in signing a project agreement to build a regional public transportation system for Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities. Thus began the Island Explorer bus service.

The project agreement outlined that Phase 3 of the transit system should include a regional transportation hub, visitor center, and maintenance center and office space for Downeast Transportation, the operator of the Island Explorer and other county-wide transit services.

Fast forward to May 22, 2023, and many of those organizations gathered again on the west side of Route 3 in Trenton to break ground on the Acadia Gateway Center. The Center will include a Maine visitor information center, park entrance pass sales and information, a bus boarding area, and electric-vehicle charging stations in the parking lots. It will open to visitors in May 2025.

Friends of Acadia’s donors can feel proud of the key role they played in making the Acadia Gateway Center possible.

Gathered in front of the “Future Home of Acadia Gateway Center” sign, from left: Peter Butler, regional administrator at Federal Transit Administration; Kevin Schneider, superintendent, Acadia National Park; Hannah Collins, deputy director, Maine Office of Tourism; U.S. Senator Angus King; Fred Ehrlenbach, first selectman, Town of Trenton; Paul Murphy, executive director, Downeast Transportation, Inc.; Bruce Van Note, commissioner, Maine Department of Transportation; and Eric Stiles, president and CEO, Friends of Acadia. Photo: Julia Walker Thomas/FOA

In 2004, Friends of Acadia purchased a three-year option on the 369-acre Crippens Creek property, while the Maine Department of Transportation (Maine DOT) completed an Environmental Assessment on the Acadia Gateway Center project. Friends of Acadia purchased the land in 2007 and immediately sold the easternmost 152 acres bordering Route 3 to Maine DOT for the project. Maine DOT opened the maintenance center and offices for Downeast Transportation at the rear of their property in 2012.

Friends of Acadia retained the remaining land behind the property and built the Trenton Community Trail with assistance from the National Park Service’s Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance Program, the Stewardship Volunteers, and the Trenton Recreation Committee. In 2013, Friends of Acadia donated a conservation easement on the remaining land to Maine Coast Heritage Trust, and then donated the underlying land to the Town of Trenton.

Friends of Acadia donors stepped up again in 2016 as part of the Acadia Second Century Campaign. Funds raised as part of the Acadia Experience pillar are being used to cover $1 million of the $27.7 million construction price for the new center. Friends of Acadia also pledged up to $225,000 from the “Greening Acadia” Paddle Raise from the 2021 Benefit Auction to help fund rooftop solar panel installation on the Center.

The Acadia Gateway Center will be a critical transportation and information link for thousands of visitors each year. It will serve as a literal and figurative gateway, providing transfers to the Island Explorer, as well as an introduction for visitors to easy, safe, and smart ways to enjoy Acadia and the surrounding communities.