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Acadia visits down slightly, but still on track for second-busiest year ever

Stephen Allen, Katrina Gavett
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Stephen Allen of Hamden, Maine, and Katrina Gavett of China, Maine, watch a wave crash at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park, Friday, June 18, 2021, near Winter Harbor, Maine.

Acadia National Park is expecting another busy holiday weekend, even though visitation has dipped slightly this year.

Visitation is down about 4% so far this year compared to last year, when a record-breaking 4 million people came to the park, Superintendent Kevin Schneider said.

July saw about a 1% bump in park visitation compared to the same time last year. July, August and September are the busiest months of the year for the park, Schneider said.

"We may sort of make up that ground here," he said. "But even if we don't, even if we stay down 2 to 4% for the year, it's still going to be the second busiest year in the park's history."

Labor Day weekend is always one of the busiest for park staff and Schneider expects it will be no different this year.

"We would really encourage people to pack your patience," he said. "Expect a little bit of congestion. Expect limited parking. Have a plan, and have a backup plan as well."

Some staff will be working overtime to handle the holiday rush. The park could only bring on 116 seasonal employees this year, partly due to a regional housing shortage. Schneider said he wanted to hire 30 to 50 more.

To alleviate congestion, park officials are encouraging those planning to visit to use the Island Explorer bus network to avoid crowded parking lots.

The Island Explorer bus system, which is run by an entity separate from Acadia National Park, is running at near-normal levels for the first time since 2019, before the pandemic reduced or canceled service altogether.

Schneider said the Island Explorer will run through Indigenous People's Day in October. Due to driver shortages, some bus routes have moved to a fall schedule earlier in the summer than usual.

According to National Park Service data, bus ridership is down 37% so far this year compared to 2019, the last year since the pandemic that the Island Explorer was running at full capacity.