ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Eight new propane-powered buses will become part of the fleet when the Island Explorer shuttle bus system begins seasonal operations next Wednesday, June 23. This summer marks the 12th year of the buses ferrying residents and island visitors to points in the park, around the island, and on Schoodic Peninsula.
The eight buses, which were received in December, are the same model as the others in the fleet. Some of the buses in the 33-vehicle fleet have been in service since 1999 and will be transitioned out, said Down East Transportation general manager Paul Murphy.
On most routes, service will end on Monday, Oct. 11; however, some shuttles on Mount Desert Island will be shortened between Sept. 1 and Oct. 11. On Schoodic, the shuttle will end on Aug. 31.
The popular Bicycle Express which runs every 30 minutes between the Bar Harbor Village Green and Eagle Lake will begin on June 23 and end on Sept. 30.
Because the CAT ferry to Yarmouth Nova Scotia is not running this summer, there have been some modifications to the schedule, said Mr. Murphy. The last bus from Bar Harbor on the Campground route will leave the Bar Harbor Village Green at 10:30 p.m., and the last bus on the Eden Street shuttle leaves the green at 10 p.m.
The Acadia National Park Loop Road shuttle, which begins and ends at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, allows day visitors to park there and access various points along the Loop Road. Although the bus does not go into Bar Harbor, visitors may still reach Bar Harbor by taking the Sand Beach and Blackwoods shuttle to the Bar Harbor Village Green and returning to the visitor center on the Campground bus.
Park pass price increase
On Wednesday the cost of the seven-day entrance pass to Acadia National Park increases from $10 to $20; the season pass remains $40. The reason for the increase, said deputy park superintendent Len Bobinchock, is that visitors can now access Acadia via the Explorer and leave their personal vehicles at their motel, campground or the visitor center. Although the Island Explorer buses are free, visitors to all entrance fee parks – and Acadia is a fee park – should have a pass. Passes may be purchased at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center, the information centers at the Bar Harbor Village Green and Thompson Island, Blackwoods and Seawall campgrounds, the entrance station near Sand Beach and, beginning June 23, the gift shops at Jordan Pond and on Cadillac Mountain. Eighty percent of the revenue collected from the sale of passes remains in the park and $10 of each pass is used to fund the Island Explorer. By law, all projects funded by fee money must enhance the visitor experience.
In addition to linking hotels, inns and campgrounds with sites in the park, nearby villages, the Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport and the various ferries, the Explorer also enables residents working in other towns to commute across the island, said Mr. Murphy. The service to Schoodic, for example, is coordinated with arrivals and departures of the Bar Harbor ferry and serves the villages of Winter Harbor, Birch Harbor and Prospect Harbor.
The successful islandwide shuttle came into being through the park and League of Towns and with funding from federal, state and local governments as well as local businesses, L.L. Bean and Friends of Acadia.
“This is a terrific project to be associated with,” said Mr. Murphy. Both he and Friends of Acadia conservation director Stephanie Clement also said they were thrilled that the partnerships held together despite the difficult economic times.