By Aislinn Sarnacki, Bill Trotter, and John Holyoke
From Bangor Daily News, July 14, 2016
Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three part series looking at the next 100 years of Acadia National Park. Be sure to also read part one, “How climate change could change Acadia over the next 100 years,” and watch for part three!
In the early 1900s, automobiles were banned in Bar Harbor. MDI’s summer “rusticators” — who converged on the island seeking respite from the cacophony and pollution of city life — lobbied for the prohibition, fearing the ruin of their bucolic seaside getaway.
The debate was contentious, with others advocating for the ease and economy of motorized transport. The ban was lifted after several years, but the the tension resonates.
Today, more visitors flock to Acadia each year than reside in the entire state of Maine. Visitation has surged 35 percent in just the last decade.
Locals lament congestion, yet the economy depends on tourist dollars. Construction to meet this growing demand also risks eroding the charm and landscape that attracts visitors in the first place.
Acadia welcomed 2.81 million people in 2015, the highest annual visitation in 20 years. These visitors generated more than $300 million for the region’s economy and supported 3,878 jobs, according a park analysis.
The crowds thronging to Acadia’s reflect a pattern at national parks across the country. As a result, the National Park Service is considering limiting the number of visitors at popular sites, aiming to protect the country’s most treasured natural landscapes.
In Maine, Acadia officials carefully avoid talk of visitor caps. But later this summer, the park will release a plan to reduce congestion at popular destinations within the park. The changes could ripple through a regional economy built on the visitors the park draws from around the world.