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The tourism season in Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park started early this year, and it's still going strong

Bar Harbor Parking
Robert F. Bukaty
In this July 31, 2018 file photo, a crowd of early-risers gather near the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park to be among the first in the continental United States to see the sunrise, near Bar Harbor, Maine. The town of Bar Harbor plans to begin charging to park next month. The move comes amid ever-increasing seasonal traffic to Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park, which set a visitation record in 2018.

From time to time we talk to folks in different areas in the state about what's happening in their communities. Morning Edition Host Irwin Gratz spoke with Liz Graves, with the town of Bar Harbor, about the tourism season in and around Acadia National Park, which she says has been going strong since the spring. Liz Graves is a former newspaper editor who works for the town of Bar Harbor.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Liz Graves: It was a busy summer and is a busy season. It started early, and will continue later. Our Chamber of Commerce put out a campaign at the beginning of the season when it was busy, everyone knew that there we're going to be lines at restaurants and stores and not a lot of staff. So there are these signs that went up in businesses that said, "Be patient, be kind. We're excited you're here and let's just do our best everybody." With more people coming to MDI and to Acadia this year, that means that some of them have never been here before. And, by and large, even with challenges with staffing and congestion, people are still really happy to be here. That's been nice to see, it's not all throwing elbows.

Irwin Gratz: And of course, the park has been starting to play with ideas for controlling congestion traffic.

The Island, our weekly newspaper, noted today that this is a new way we will measure the end of the visitor season is that when the reservation system gets turned off, it's mid-October, you can drive up Cadillac whenever you want, until they close the road for the winter.

One of the things that's going to happen next year is the cap will come back.

Yeah. And planning for that is getting into more detailed, granular phases. So that is really going to happen. And I'm excited about it. I haven't seen it. I moved here just when it stopped.

Also some questions being raised up in that area about the future of cruise ship business. Do people talk about it around town? Does it seem to be getting people agitated one way or the other?

People certainly are agitated both ways. And I don't think a lot of folks have have changed sides from the pandemic experience. People who didn't want them here were super excited that they weren't here and would rather they not come back. People who want them here are really hoping they come back.

What about the pandemic? Where do people seem to be? Do you see a lot of folks wearing masks?

Unlike cruise ships, with with the pandemic I have seen a lot of people change their minds about [the pandemic precautions.] I have friends who were the most cautious, who are now much less cautious. And I know people who went the opposite way, who didn't modify their activities much and then now, with delta, are suddenly pulling way back. Case numbers have been daunting in the last month as delta came here. I looked at the numbers last year, and we could always say, 'oh well at least it's not as crazy as it is in Southern Maine.' And now some of that of the case rates and transmission rates, we have been ahead of Cumberland County. Luckily, still not big numbers of hospitalizations here, although our hospital in Bar Harbor had more COVID patients in the last two months than we ever did in 2020.