May 25, 2018
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As Acadia starts to bustle, locals push to count cruise ship visitors

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Tourists in Bar Harbor take pictures of the cruise ship AIDA Bella anchored offshore in this file photo.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff

After the long slumber of winter, Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island are awakening to tourist season.

The park’s 57 miles of carriage roads opened on Friday and the Acadia Nature Center and Sand Beach entrance station are due to open on Tuesday. The Wild Gardens adjoining the center also will open.

The entrance station opening marks the first day that park workers start requiring people to show passes to get in to Acadia, and the openings are all part of the larger beginning of tourist season on Mount Desert Island, spokeswoman Christie Anastasia said.

[Acadia broke another attendance record in 2017]

“The pace is picking up. Shops are opening in towns. You are seeing RVs in towns,” Anastasia said Monday. “You are still seeing people preparing to put their boats into the water. You can start seeing people who aren’t from around here coming in and checking things out.”

Some Acadia features remain closed. The road to the summit of Cadillac Mountain is being paved and thus closed to vehicle traffic until May 4. Pedestrians will still be welcome.

Tuesday also marks the day of a partial opening of Blackwoods Campground, Anastasia said.

Some of Acadia’s most loyal customers, cruise-ship crews and passengers, have also begun their seasonal arrivals. The cruise ships Veendam and Marina were due to arrive on Sunday and Monday at Harbor Place, according to the town’s schedule.

An earlier arrival of the Fram on April 19, was canceled by engine trouble, officials said.

Cruise ships are part of a simmering controversy on Mount Desert Island over whether the island has become too congested by tourist traffic.

[A new cruise ship controversy stirs Bar Harbor]

Bar Harbor Cruise Ship Committee members hope to gain Town Council permission to do something that would greatly clarify the situation ― counts from cruise ships of exactly how many passengers and crew members disembark in Bar Harbor during each stay.

The data would help ensure that the passenger caps the town sets for cruise-ship disembarkation are accurate, said Skip Strong, a committee member.

It will also help town officials understand how much cruise-ship traffic contributes to downtown congestion, Strong said.

“This will be the first full year we’ll be collecting information,” Strong said. “We might still end up missing a few ships. Are the ships coming in with what they say are coming in with? Are they coming in with more, or with less? We really don’t know at this point.”

No council review date has been set.

Bar Harbor was visited by 166 cruise ships in 2017 and expects 180 ship visits this year. It was ranked second in 2016 among the top-5 cruise ship visitation ports in the U.S. and Canada, according to cruisecritic.com.

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