Park visitor records still crashing down



ACADIA NAT’L PARK — Caution: Watch for falling records.

In the month of June 2018, there were an estimated 499,163 visits to Acadia, an all-time record for the sixth month of the year.

Until now.

In June 2021, the estimated number of visits was 655,745, an increase of 31.4 percent over the previous high and 226 percent higher than in June 2020, the year in which tourism was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halfway through 2018, the total estimated number of Acadia visitors was 868,968. This year, the six-month total was 1,164,946, an increase of 34 percent. In 2020, the half-year total was just 414,627.

How visits are counted

In national parks that have a single entrance, park officials can accurately count the number of vehicles and, for the most part, the number of visitors. Such parks include Arches and Mesa Verde.

Acadia is different; it’s very porous. There is the Sand Beach entrance station at the start of the Ocean Drive section of the Park Loop Road, and now, with the Cadillac Mountain reservation system, the number of vehicles going up the mountain can be counted.

But otherwise, there are so many roads into and through the park — plus all the trailheads along those roads — that actually counting people and vehicles is impossible.

So, here is how the estimated total is calculated: There is a vehicle counter on both lanes of the Loop Road near the Sand Beach entrance. The traffic count at that location is multiplied by a “vehicle expansion multiplier” to estimate the number of vehicles going to all of the other recreation areas in the park. The vehicle expansion multiplier ranges from 1.8 in January, February and December to 2.7 in June, July and August.

The adjusted vehicle count is then multiplied by the “persons-per-vehicle” multiplier. That multiplier is 2.0 in January, February, March and December, 2.8 in April and November and 3.0 in May through October.

But that’s not all.

The estimated number of commercial bus and van passengers is calculated by multiplying the number of full-size motor coaches by 45, the number of small buses by 18 and the number of vans by 10.

The number of people boarding an Island Explorer bus can easily be counted. But the buses don’t just pick up and drop off passengers in Acadia. So, 25 percent of Island Explorer passengers are counted as park visitors.

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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