Acadia to delay tour bus rules

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — A concern that the park was unfairly hurting tour bus operators has prompted superintendent Sheridan Steele to place a moratorium on new bus management policies at Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond House, and the Cadillac Mountain Road and summit.

On busy days the number of buses and park visitors at the summit of Cadillac exceed the capacity of restrooms, walkways, concession facilities and parking areas. The size of a bus often makes it difficult to remain in its lane and to negotiate difficult turns on the road to the summit.

“We are not trying to keep cruise ship visitors out of the park,” said Steele. “Our challenge is to accommodate all visitors to the extent possible without compromising the park’s mission or resources.”

The policy announced in February stipulated that at any one time, only two buses from each company would be allowed on the Cadillac Mountain Road and summit and at Thunder Hole and Jordan Pond House.

Under the modified guidelines, the permits will be issued to tour operators like Intercruise, not individual bus companies like Cyr and Northeast Charter. Intercruise arranges local tours for many of the approximately 130 cruise ships that visit Bar Harbor annually. In 2000, when the original guidelines were drafted, there were only 36 cruise ships visiting Acadia.

The continued discussion and modified guidelines have come about because of concern from local bus companies. They worry that those arranging land tours would contract with a number of bus companies and take business out of the state. While the details for implementing and managing the modified guidelines have not been worked out, discussions are underway with all stakeholders, said park planner John Kelly.

At Cadillac, there are five parking spaces for buses – three of these are for commercial tour buses and two are for the local concessioners, Ollie’s Trolley and Acadia National Park Tours. At Monday’s advisory commission meeting, Kelly said that the park would manage traffic on Cadillac Mountain Road and the summit so that only three commercial tour buses would be at the summit at the same time while one would be on the road to the summit.

In addition to the restrictions on Cadillac, only three commercial tour buses will be allowed at Thunder Hole. Two of the five spaces there are reserved for the local concessioners; the Island Explorer uses the parking lot. At Jordan Pond House, tour bus parking without a reservation is limited to 30 minutes. Of the four spaces there, three are used by the tour buses, with local concessioners sharing one.

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Anne Kozak

Contributer at Mount Desert Islander
Anne teaches writing at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.