ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Thanks to good weather last month, visitation to the park is up from last year despite soggy conditions in June and July, members of Acadia’s 16-seat citizen advisory commission were told Monday.
So far, more than 1½ million people are estimated to have visited Acadia in 2009, according to statistics provided by park officials to the commission. That represents an increase of about 3 percent, or about 45,000 visitors, over the park’s totals at the end of August 2008.
For the month of August alone, visits were nearly 14 percent higher than it was for the same month last year, recreation specialist Charlie Jacobi said. Last month, almost 585,500 people are estimated to have visited Acadia.
“August was gangbusters in terms of park visitation,” he told the commission.
According to figures Jacobi presented to the commission, visitation for the year was down at the end of July by about 2½ percent from the same seven-month period in 2008.
Good weather in August and in particular the draw of heavy surf from Hurricane Bill helped boost visits last month, even though the unusually large waves from the storm injured more than a dozen people on the shore near Thunder Hole and swept a 7-year-old New York City girl to her death.
Commissioners also were briefed — and subsequently weighed in on — several nearby development issues that have caught the attention of park officials.
More than one of those issues involve the possible erection of towers in or near the park.
The federal Customs and Border Protection agency is interested in erecting an 80-foot communications tower on Cadillac Mountain, where two other, shorter communications towers are located. Park officials told the commission they would like to reduce the visibility of the existing towers on the mountain and are opposed to any more being built on top of Cadillac.
Park officials also said they are concerned about the possible use of waters south of Isle au Haut, where part of the park is located, as a test site for offshore wind turbines and about the growing number of cell phone tower proposals for Mount Desert Island. The effect of the proposed CBP tower, wind turbines, or cell phone towers on MDI could impinge upon the appeal of Acadia and the ability of park visitors to experience the park and a pristine, undeveloped place, park officials said.
“It is a visitor experience issue,” park planner John Kelly told the commission.
The commission, which meets only three times a year, discussed three resolutions relating to the various development proposals and voted in favor of two of them. One was to encourage the state and federal government to seek out offshore wind turbine test sites that are far away from the park, and the other was to support the park’s opposition to erecting any new towers on Cadillac Mountain.
The third resolution took up more discussion time by the commission because it was aimed at more general development issues and commissioners wrangled about how to word it. Essentially, they wanted a resolution that will encourage nearby landowners and developers to consider any possible impacts on the park, and espe-cially the view of the relatively undeveloped coastline from Acadia, before they pursue any development projects.
The commission agreed to complete the wording of the third resolution by an e-mail vote to be held by the end of the month.
Commissioners also were told that the results of a study indicated there is no evidence that George B. Dorr or other founders of Acadia intended to create a body of water where a pond called the Tarn is now located. Some people have called for the park to preserve the Tarn as a pond, but others have suggested that the park should let nature take its course, even if it results in the Tarn turning into more of a wetland than a pond.
David Manski, head of the park’s resource management division, told the commission that he thought a study of the historical record would clearly reveal whether park founders intended the Tarn to remain a pond. The intent of the park’s founders, he said, would help park officials determine whether to preserve it as a cultural resource or allow the pond to fill in naturally.
Manski said that, given the lack of any clear indication of what the founders’ intentions for the Tarn were, he thinks the park could better spend its money preserving other cultural landscapes in the park, such as the now-vacant farm properties on Bakers Island.
“I think what has happened is that it has come full circle,” Manski said of the Tarn. “It wants to be a wetland.”