ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — The Island Explorer bus system, which provides fare-free transportation on and around Mount Desert Island each summer and fall, is getting a big gift in connection with the park’s 100th anniversary this year.

Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean is giving the propane-powered bus system another $1 million, officials indicated Thursday in a written statement.

L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith will visit Acadia next week for a public announcement of the $1 million contribution, together with Acadia’s Superintendent Kevin Schneider, officials with the park and Friends of Acadia said in a prepared statement. The formal announcement, scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, at the Jordan Pond House, will be open to the public.

With the new $1 million gift, L.L. Bean has donated and pledged more than $4 million toward the Island Explorer since 2002.

The bus system, which runs each year from June 23 through Columbus Day, was established in 1999 and is estimated to have carried a total of more than 6 million passengers over the past 17 years. Officials with Downeast Transportation, which operates the service, and Friends of Acadia say the system gets about half a million passengers each summer.

They also have said it has reduced private vehicle trips through the park by nearly 2.3 million, eliminated more than 32 tons of smog-causing pollutants, and resulted in a reduction of more than 21,000 tons of greenhouse gases.

“We are pleased to continue our support of the Island Explorer bus system,” Janet Wyper, Manager of Community Relations for L.L. Bean, said in Thursday’s statement. “L.L. Bean has deep roots in Maine and a long history of supporting conservation projects. It’s a natural fit for our company to sponsor the Island Explorer, which has enabled millions of people to enjoy one of Maine’s and the nation’s greatest natural assets, Acadia National Park, in an environmentally-friendly manner.”

Kevin Schneider, superintendent of Acadia National Park, said the bus service “makes a huge difference” in how people experience the park

“It dramatically improves visitors’ enjoyment of the park by providing convenient access to trailheads and prime destinations, and by reducing traffic and auto emissions,” Schneider said.

The bus system also includes a bicycle trailer service. Since 2005, four vans and two bicycle trailers have carried more than 164,000 cyclists from the Bar Harbor Village Green to the carriage roads at Eagle Lake.

The Island Explorer has a fleet of 30 buses that are stored and maintained at the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton when not in use.

Paul Murphy, general manager of Downeast Transportation Inc., said L.L. Bean’s support of the bus service has been key to making it a model alternative transportation system.

“Although we rely on many partners to fund operations each year, including the National Park Service and Maine Department of Transportation, all of our local funders really appreciate having L.L. Bean’s leadership to match and exceed their contributions to enable expanded bus operations,” Murphy said in the statement.

Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....