ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — With the help of a $1.3 million federal grant, the park is planning to improve bus stop facilities for the free Island Explorer bus system later this year.
The $1,324,518 grant will fund construction of and improvements to nine Island Explorer bus stops at park locations on Mount Desert Island, according to Acadia Deputy Superintendent Len Bobinchock.
“All of these are very popular areas in the park,” he said. “The whole intent is to make it easier for people to use the Island Explorer [system] so people will use it.”
One such project entails building a new bus stop at the northern end of Cadillac Mountain’s North Ridge Trail at the Park Loop Road, where there is no bus stop now, Bobinchock said. Another entails building a stop for northbound buses at the Acadia Mountain parking lot on Route 102, while a third will result in a bus stop at Echo Lake that does not require buses to drive through the entire parking lot.
“When the parking lot [at Echo Lake] is busy, it often comes to a standstill,” Bobinchock said.
Other major improvements are expected to be made at the Parkman Mountain, Bubble Pond and Bubble Rock parking areas, while minor improvements are anticipated at the seasonal visitors center in Hulls Cove, at Sand Beach and at Thunder Hole, according to the deputy superintendent.
He said the park is hoping to issue contracts this summer and to have work get under way this fall. The goal is to have all the work completed by the spring of 2013.
“We’re hoping to complete this [overall] project below the cost estimate,” Bobinchock said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced the grant award in prepared statements that indicated the projects will improve the overall visitor experience at Acadia and will help protect the park’s resources.
The Island Explorer, which also serves communities surrounding Acadia on and off MDI, has provided rides to more than 4 million passengers since it began operations in 1999. Officials have said it has eliminated nearly 1.4 million private motor vehicle trips and has prevented emissions of 13,000 tons of greenhouse gases and more than 20 tons of smog-causing pollutants during that time.