BAR HARBOR, Maine — Hotel guests as well as locals living near the College of the Atlantic campus will soon have a new way to access Acadia National Park’s hiking and biking trails located close to downtown Bar Harbor.
On Saturday morning, about 40 volunteers, park staff and representatives of several nonprofit groups were working in a small wooded lot behind a hotel constructing a new connector trail between the park and downtown.
Roughly three-quarters of a mile in length, the trail will run from behind the Acadia Inn — located just across Route 3 from the COA campus — to a seldom-used private trail that winds its way to Duck Brook Road, a popular entrance point to the park’s carriage road system.
“This is a great project,” Gary Stellpflug, trails foreman for Acadia National Park, told the group of volunteers gathered early Saturday morning. “We are able to go from the town to the park and leave our vehicles behind.”
Although Stellpflug and other park personnel are heavily involved in the new connector trail, the path is on private land and will not become part of the park. Instead, Acadia Inn and other landowners granted a right of way for a 4-foot-wide trail to be used by pedestrians and people walking their bikes. The trail is expected to open this fall, however public parking will not be provided by the private landowners.
The Friends of Acadia organization has been talking with hotel owners in the area about a connector trail for about a decade. Saturday’s project came about as a result of a collaboration between the Friends of Acadia, the private landowners, the National Parks Conservation Association, the park service and granola bar maker Nature Valley, which will donate up to $500,000 for trail or restoration projects at six national parks.
On Saturday, groups of volunteers as well as experienced trail crews shoveled, hauled and spread gravel into a honey comb-like strip of plastic that will help keep the gravel — and the trail — in place in steeper or muddy sections. Earlier, crews also built a wooden boardwalk through wetter areas.
Stephanie Clement, conservation director for Friends of Acadia, said the new trail is one of five connector trails that her organization has helped to build. The purpose of this trail is to both facilitate use of the park in a way that allows users to avoid driving into the park and jockeying for a parking spot, especially during the busy summer months.
“It’s a quick exit from the town right to the park,” Clement said while strolling part of the trail with Oliver Spellman, senior manager with the National Parks Conservation Association’s northeast regional office in New York.
Spellman said other restoration or trail projects are being done in Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton and Biscayne national parks through the program with Nature Valley.
“They are all on-the-ground projects so the parks are happy, the friends groups are happy and NPCA [the National Parks Conservation Association] is thrilled,” Spellman said.