WINTER HARBOR — At the end of another summer season, the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park once again saw an increase in visitors.
The economic impact on surrounding communities remains a bit nuanced.
“As of August, the year-to-date number of visitors to the Schoodic section is up slightly from last year,” said Christie Anastasia, public affairs specialist with Acadia National Park.
According to data provided by the National Park Service (NPS), 213,931 visitors to Schoodic were counted through August 2018, an increase of 3.3 percent from 2017.
At the Schoodic Woods Campground, usage was also up from the previous year. NPS data showed an 8 percent increase in RV visitors, a 33.1 percent increase in group camping and a slight, 4.1 percent decrease in tent camping.
Overall camping numbers were up 4.6 percent from last year.
The visitors center at the Schoodic Institute also recorded an increase. The number of year-to-date visitors there currently stands at 13,965, up from 13,038 last year.
While traffic in the park is up, it’s unclear how many of those visitors are stopping by the small towns and businesses on the peninsula.
Cheryl Bracket, president of the Schoodic Chamber of Commerce and owner of Seascape Kayak and Bike rental in Winter Harbor, said that while most businesses saw a better season revenue-wise, many perceived there to be less foot and vehicle traffic in the area.
“We polled our members at our fall meeting, and everybody had a good year,” Bracket said. “The majority said more money had been spent, although there seemed to be fewer people overall.”
Bracket added that the Chamber of Commerce did not keep track of overall visitor and commerce numbers, drawing its conclusions mostly on the perception of business owners.
Earlier this year the Schoodic Marine Center opened on Sargent Street in Winter Harbor, offering amenities such as bike and kayak rentals as well as laundry facilities. Ferry service between Bar Harbor and the Marine Center also expanded with Downeast Windjammer adding a second ferry this summer.
Pearl Barto, secretary for the Schoodic Chamber of Commerce and owner of MainStay Cottages & RV Park in Winter Harbor, noted seeing some different types of customers than previous years.
“This year was a bit quieter that previously,” Barto said. “In the past we’ve had some older customers and ended up with a lot of cancellations due to health problems. This year there were younger people but with shorter stays.”
On Main Street in Winter Harbor, Peter Drinkwater, owner of the Winter Harbor 5 & 10, said this year had definitely been better than 2017.
“In downtown Winter Harbor it seemed like there were more people,” Drinkwater said. “Definitely a lot more day-trippers coming across on the ferry from Bar Harbor.
“It seemed like there were a lot of travelers. We’re always asking where people are from and there were a lot of Midwesterners; people from Michigan, people from Wisconsin.”