Acadia National Park officials looks back on record 2021 season

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 10:40 PM EST
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BAR HARBOR, Maine (WABI) - Officials at Acadia National Park expect that once November’s visitation numbers have been counted, the park will have seen more than four million visitors in 2021.

That will shatter the previous visitation record of 3.54 million in 2018.

Looking at the empty Visitor’s Center parking lot in December, it might be hard to tell that 2021 was a record season for visitation to Acadia National Park, but one park officials fully expected.

“Visitation really started to climb early in the spring,” said John Kelly, Management Asst. for Acadia National Park. “We saw what the summer was going to be like pretty early on, and right from the start of the opening of the Park Loop Road in April, we began to see visitation skyrocketing.”

With more people, came the need for more emergency service.

“A huge increase in the number of assists or rescues we had to make,” said Kelly. “Rescues were up by a third for people on trails and carriage roads.”

As it is every year, parking was one of the biggest challenges.

“We really experienced high traffic congestion and parking problems at Jordan Pond and Ocean Drive, but not at Cadillac Summit Road where we had a vehicle reservation system in place,” said Kelly.

Visitation in Acadia National Park is up more than 50% over last year, with November visitation numbers still to be counted. But looking at numbers before the pandemic gives a clearer idea of just how busy the season really was.

“Pre-COVID, we’re still 17% at this point in the year over what we had in 2019, so that’s really significant,” said Kelly.

Officials at Acadia are turning the page and looking ahead to 2022.

“We’re working on staffing up right now for next season with park rangers, maintenance staff, and people to work the visitors centers and entrance stations,” said Kelly.

Those who worked in the park in 2021 are also taking a few well-earned moments to catch their breath.

“I think the seasonal park ranger staff and many others in the park are relieved that the season has quieted down and we get to enjoy, like the locals, a less congested Acadia National Park,” said Kelly.

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