ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Though some sections of the Park Loop Road will continue to be affected by federal budget cuts, park officials have decided to open the summit road to the top of Cadillac Mountain earlier than they had planned.
The road and a section of the loop road between Cadillac and Route 233 in Bar Harbor will be opened early Saturday morning, May 11, in time for people to drive to the summit to see the sunrise, Acadia officials indicated Monday. Park officials had planned to open the road, along with other paved roads in the park, on Friday, May 17.
Contributions from the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, which has committed to providing volunteers and other resources for a week, made the decision possible, park officials said in a prepared statement.
“The view from Cadillac summit is one of the icon[ic] experiences at Acadia, and it can’t be
duplicated elsewhere in the park,” Acadia officials said in the release. “By opening the road earlier, the hope is that those who are visiting Mount Desert Island for an extended stay will be able to experience its beauty as well as all the other unique features of Acadia.”
The chamber has volunteered to clean up the sides of the summit road and the parking lot at the top before the May 11 opening, to remove trash in bins at the summit from May 11 to May 17, and to provide signs alerting cyclists about the presence of motor vehicles on the road, park officials said. A private firm that operates the gift shop at the summit has agreed to open on May 11 and to provide portable toilets at the site until the park opens the adjacent bathrooms later in the month, they added.
Chris Fogg, executive director of the local Chamber, said Monday that the business community in general and nonprofit group Friends of Acadia also are lending a hand to help open the road early. He said the summit of Cadillac is one of the bigger attractions in the park and opening the road to it is important to the local tourism industry.
Fogg added he is glad the community could come together and work with park officials to open the road earlier than expected.
“Even if it’s only a week early, it’s still really important,” Fogg said.
The summit road, which leads to the top of Acadia’s highest peak, is closed each winter, when many say it is the first point in the United States to see the sun each morning. People can hike to the top year-round but the road typically is closed to vehicles either with the first snowfall of winter or on Dec. 1, depending which comes first, and then re-opened on April 15.
Sequestration-related cuts to the federal budget, however, have resulted in park officials delaying when some seasonal park facilities will be opened to the public this spring. Most of Park Loop Road, which is closed each winter at the same time as the summit road, is expected to remain closed until May 17. The park’s Visitor’s Center in the Bar Harbor village of Hulls Cove is scheduled to open on Sunday, May 19.
Access to sections of the loop road that are open to vehicles year-round — the Ocean Drive portion that passes Sand Beach and Thunder Hole, and the section between the village of Seal Harbor and the Jordan Pond House — have not been affected by sequestration and remain open to vehicles.
Moving up the opening date for the summit road is not expected to affect cruise ship passengers, who typically ride to the summit on tour buses when their ships visit Bar Harbor. On Sunday, the Veendam was the first cruise ship to visit Bar Harbor in 2013 and its sister ship, the Maasdam, is expected to be the second on Thursday, May 9. The next visit after that will be on Friday, May 17, when the Veendam stops again in Frenchman Bay on its return trip from Canada. In all, 135 cruise ship visits are scheduled between now and the end of October.
The park’s hiking and carriage trails, which are not open to motorized vehicles, always are open to the public year-round, with the exceptions of some short-term closures related to nesting birds or wet weather.
More information about the park is available online at www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm.