BAR HARBOR, Maine — Ten years after it first started providing free rides to help ease summer congestion on Mount Desert Island, the Island Explorer celebrated the milestone of its 3 millionth passenger on Monday.
Officials with the bus system, Acadia National Park and Friends of Acadia on Monday morning met a group of four people who rode into downtown Bar Harbor on one of the system’s propane-powered buses. Annapolis, Md., residents Al and Jackie Pulsifer, who are vacationing on MDI with their granddaughters Jordan and Sydney Casey, were estimated to have pushed the bus system past the passenger milestone when they boarded an Island Explorer bus a few minutes earlier in Otter Creek.
When they stepped off the bus at the Village Green, the Pulsifers and their granddaughters were greeted by cameras, officials connected with the Island Explorer bus system and reporters.
“Thank you for using the Island Explorer bus system,” Len Bobinchock, deputy superintendent for Acadia, told the foursome. “We have a very serious parking problem in Acadia National Park and by using the bus system, you help protect the park’s resources.”
The bus system began operating in 1999 to help ease the crush of tourists and seasonal residents and workers who inhabit MDI every summer. The bus system, which is funded through public and private sources, operates on and near MDI and throughout the park from late June through mid-October. Part of Island Explorer’s funding includes a $1 million gift it received in 2002 from L.L. Bean.
Marla O’Byrne, president of Friends of Acadia, also was on hand to greet the family.
“We thank the Caseys and the Pulsifers for making the choice to ride the buses,” O’Byrne said in a prepared statement. “Not only does the Island Explorer provide great recreational opportunities for millions of visitors, but it also helps fight global climate change and air pollution. Every visitor who rides the bus should feel con-fident that they are being good stewards of Acadia National Park.”
Ridership on the system has increased steadily since 1999. The first year, when it ceased operations around Labor Day, the Island Explorer had provided more than 140,000 rides, which is estimated to have prevented 54,000 vehicle trips on MDI that otherwise would have occurred that summer, according to the system’s statis-tics. By using propane and eliminating those vehicle trips, the bus system is believed to have saved 4 tons of pollutants from being released and nearly 500 tons of greenhouse gases from being generated.
The Pulsifers, who drove to MDI in a large recreational vehicle, said they also rode on the bus system when they visited Acadia in 1999.
“We were here when it just started,” Jackie Pulsifer said.
“We might be the 100th passenger, too,” said her husband.
Al Pulsifer said that, aside from being environmentally friendly, using the Island Explorer has made their visit easier.
“The RV is very difficult to park, so it really is a lot more convenient to be able to get on the bus,” he said.