ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — Now that Maine’s only national park has reopened, officials on Mount Desert Island are trying to get on with business as usual before the mild weather and fall foliage disappear for the winter.
The adverse effects of shutting the park down in the middle of the fall tourism season may not have been as bad as some had feared, but it definitely had an impact, according to local park and business officials.
The closure of Acadia for 16 days is estimated to have resulted in the loss of approximately $950,000 in visitor spending inside the park, officials said Friday. That approximate figure is the combined estimated total in lost entrance fees and lost revenue at gift shops and a restaurant in the park that had to close when Acadia locked its gates.
Len Bobinchock, deputy superintendent of the national park, said Friday that Acadia did not take in any revenue while the park was closed from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16. He said that, based on the amount of revenue taken in by the park during the same period in 2012, the park lost out on approximately $250,000 in revenue because of the shutdown.
Most of the park’s revenue comes in the form of entrance fees that it collects from people who use the park, Bobinchock said, but it also collects some fees from licensed firms that conduct commercial operations in the park and fees from campers at Blackwoods Campground.
How much was not spent by the park in operating costs during the shutdown is harder to gauge, Bobinchock said. Furloughed employees are expected to be given back pay for the time they were out of work, he said, which would result in no savings in personnel expenses. Otherwise, the savings the park would have realized from the closure would be in reduced utility and fuel costs, he said, which are not readily available.
“We don’t have an easy mechanism to track [those costs],” he said.
As for concessions in the park, those sustained higher losses, according to an official who runs those sites. David Woodside, president of Acadia Corp., said the closure from Oct. 1 to 16 of the Jordan Pond House restaurant and of the company’s three gift shops result in estimated revenue losses “approaching $700,000.”
He said two gift shops — at Cadillac Mountain and at Jordan Pond — and the restaurant have opened up for another week or so before they shut down for the winter at the end of the month. The Jordan Pond House is serving a limited menu of popovers, lobster stew, chowder and ice cream because some restaurant staff decided to leave their jobs early when the restaurant had to close on Oct. 1, he said.
The restaurant will close for the year on Oct. 27 and the gift shops will close on Oct. 30, Woodside said.
Outside the park, the overall effect on the island’s tourism industry is not readily apparent.
Chris Fogg, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said the continuation of cruise ship visits to Bar Harbor during the shutdown made a big difference for a lot of downtown merchants. Because cruise ship passengers could not ride bus tours through the park during the shutdown, many spent more time and money in Bar Harbor, which resulted in some downtown shops and restaurants doing better than they would have had the park been open, he said.
But Fogg added that the same was not the case for local lodging businesses. Hotels and motels in town had cancellations because of the shutdown, he said, so the overall effect of the closure on the town’s business community is not clear. He said it will be more evident when the state releases tax revenue for this month that can be compared to Bar Harbor’s sales figures from October 2012.
Fogg said that many local businesses reacted to the park’s closure by coming up with alternate plans for meeting their customers needs. Bus tour companies that usually travel through Acadia quickly worked up routes and schedules to carry cruise ship passengers on scenic routes and through picturesque villages, while lodging businesses promoted alternate types of activities such as biking along state and local roads, which remained open, or taking kayak tours or whale watches.
This responsiveness helped mitigate the effects of the park’s closure, he said, but the local tourism industry’s long-term success depends on having Acadia open and accessible to everyone.
“The business community here is relieved to have the government back open and the national park accessible to visitors again,” Fogg said, adding that there still are a lot of seasonal activities to do on MDI.
“The foliage right now is at peak and the MDI marathon is this [Sunday, Oct. 20],” he said.
According to Bobinchock, despite the reopening of Acadia, seasonal closures of some park facilities have gone into effect, as they would in any year. The Pretty Marsh Picnic Area, and Lakewood swimming area have been closed, and Seawall Campground closes on Sept. 30 each year.
The Visitors Center in Hulls Cove will be open until Oct. 31, he said, and the park’s road system is expected to remain open for several more weeks. Dirt roads usually are gated for the winter on Nov. 15 and paved roads on Dec. 1, unless snowy weather requires that they be closed sooner, he said.