Meet Scout Cutler

Recreation Fee Clerk at Acadia National Park

Cutler checks park passes for visitors at the Sand Beach entrance station.(Photo by Ashley L. Conti/Friends of Acadia)

In this series, we’re spotlighting the talented and dedicated staff of Acadia National Park who deliver an incredible visitor experience day after day. Whether working directly with park visitors or behind the scenes, seasonally or year-round, these are the people who make the park hum. They work hard and wear many hats, keeping the park in incredible shape, keeping park visitors safe, and rising to the occasion as visitation has reached peak levels in recent years. We at Friends of Acadia appreciate the work they do, we appreciate them. Thank you! Read all the Front & Center stories

Last summer, Scout Cutler woke up before dawn and made her way to the fee booths at the base of Cadillac Summit Road. Most mornings, cars were already lined up at the gate—eager park visitors waiting to drive up Cadillac to watch the sunrise.

During the summer, the recreation fee clerks work a 3 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. sunrise shift at Cadillac. For Cutler, those early starts are a perk.

“I really liked the weird hours,” she said. “I loved to have the afternoon off to go do stuff in the park.”

There’s no easing into the day on a sunrise shift—work kicks off in a rush. Cutler checked in car after car, sold park passes, and welcomed a parade of visitors before daylight even arrived.

Cutler’s role at the Cadillac Summit Road is a relatively new one. Up until a couple of years ago, no reservations were needed to drive up to the Cadillac summit.

Witnessing the sunrise from Cadillac has long been popular, but the increasingly heavy traffic congestion was challenging park resources and visitor safety (emergency vehicles couldn’t always get up the road when it was backed up).

Cutler gears up in her search and rescue attire at Sand Beach. (Photo by Ashley L. Conti/Friends of Acadia)

In 2021, the National Park Service implemented a reservation system to reduce traffic and illegal parking, which also improved the experience for visitors who came to enjoy the vista, not sit in a bottleneck of automobiles.

The role of a recreation fee clerk at Cadillac is a fine balance of customer service and efficiency. The sunrise waits for no one, and the visitors in that long line don’t want to miss it. At the same time, many visitors have questions or don’t realize they needed a park entrance pass in addition to their Cadillac reservation. Maybe they showed up without a reservation at all or on the wrong day.

It was Cutler’s job to provide answers, explain things, and issue park passes (recreation fee clerks cannot make reservations, but they do sell entrance passes). She also had to turn people away if they didn’t have a reservation. While a necessary part of the job, it was a challenge some days.

“We were turning around 300 cars a day,” she said. And turned-away visitors were sometimes frustrated.

In her off time, she also got a glimpse into other possibilities within the park. She once went on a ride-along with a law enforcement ranger and immediately felt like it might be something she’d like to pursue.

“Environmental law and protecting nature—I feel strongly about that,” she said.

She was also able to pursue another passion: search and rescue. Cutler’s been a member of a backcountry rescue team since she was 13. Last summer in Acadia, she was able to assist with more than a dozen search-and-rescue calls.

“I love it, it’s what I live on,” she said. “And it gave me an outlet over the summer.”

Her role as a recreational fee clerk is a “great foot in the door,” she said. “It’s been great for building experience, networking, and knowing how things work.”

“It’s not glamorous, but it’s an important job,” Cutler added. “I would choose Cadillac again.”

Scout Cutler, Acadia National Park recreation fee clerk and technician, lays out cones at the Sand Beach entrance station. (Photo by Ashley L. Conti/Friends of Acadia)

5 Ways Park Visitors Can Ease the Burden on Hardworking Park Staff

1. Make a Reservation to Drive Up Cadillac – Sunrise or Daytime

Advanced reservations are required for all vehicles to drive up the Cadillac Summit Road during the
busy season (for 2023, reservations are required from May 24 through October 22). Reservations are made online at Park staff cannot make reservations for you, and they can’t be made at the fee stations. Sunrise reservations fill up the fastest, so you’ll need to book early.

2. Check all Details Online

Making a reservation is like making a reservation for dinner: you need to be on time or you’ll lose
your spot. If your reservation is for Tuesday from 8-10 a.m., that means Tuesday from 8-10 a.m. is your window. Arriving on another day or at a different time won’t work, so double-check the details.

3. Research and Modify

Take the time to research what to expect at the summit. Acadia has no shortage of stand-out views
that don’t require a reservation. If you’re really excited to get up there, but the forecast is calling for rain the day you’re going, know you can modify your reservation up to 10 minutes beforehand. Choose any other date or time that’s open. (Sunrise is so popular, you might not find another sunrise opening, but there are often open daytime slots.)

4. Purchase Your Park Entrance Pass

Be sure to have your park entrance pass. If you forget to buy your park pass before arriving for your reserved drive-up time on Cadillac, you can purchase one at the fee station.

5. Consider Other Sunrise-Viewing Locations

While Cadillac Mountain gets a good deal of attention, there are plenty of places to watch the sunrise – or simply enjoy the view any time of day. Dorr Mountain is a sunrise option for hikers. Schooner Head overlook and Otter Cliffs offer stellar sunrise and daytime views.

SHANNON BRYAN is Friends of Acadia’s Content and Website