Acadia National Park officials want to do away with their yo-yoing entrance fee price and settle on a year-round fee of $20 per week to better support operations of the Island Explorer shuttle system.
The entrance fee currently is $20 per week during the peak season from late June through Columbus Day, and then $10 per week through the shoulder seasons. Under the proposal now open for comment, the park would increase the fee to $20 year-round.
According to Stephanie Clement at Friends of Acadia, "the Island Explorer operating and admin budget is just over $1.68 million annually right now. The largest source of income, around 55 percent of the total budget, comes from the park’s transit fee, which is currently $10 of the weekly entrance pass during the Island Explorer operating season and $10 of the annual pass year-round."
"The second largest contributor of income to the Island Explorer has been the Federal Transit Administration/State of Maine. They increased their operating support this past year when the Acadia Gateway Center maintenance facilities opened," continued Ms. Clement, FOA's conservation director. "L.L.Bean is the third-largest contributor through Friends of Acadia, and the remainder of the budget (almost 11 percent of the budget) comes from local businesses that receive front-door service, local municipalities, rider donations, and other special donations (like contributions from the Acadia Corporation and Friends of Acadia to try a special Jordan Pond Express Route)."
In proposing the year-round $20 entrance fee, park officials note that "public use of the Island Explorer ... has increased from 141,000 riders in 1999-when it began-to 424,000 annual riders in 2013. Likewise, the number of propane-powered buses has increased from eight buses in 1999 to more than 30 buses in 2013."
"The Island Explorer has significantly reduced automobile use and prevented 15,000 tons of greenhouse gases; however, there has been an increase in operational costs as bus routes and operation times have expanded and as maintenance and repairs on the buses are needed," they add.
Back at FOA, Ms. Clement said the organization "is definitely in support of the proposed fee change." "We support this fee change for several reasons: 1) The Island Explorer’s operational costs are increasing as the price of fuel rises, labor costs go up, and the buses age and require additional maintenance. Also, once the Acadia Gateway Center opens, we hope to add several express routes to entice day visitors to leave their cars there and ride the buses. The transit fee is the most stable source of operating funds."
Too, the shuttle bus system benefits both park visitors and Mount Desert Island residents, she said. "The transit fee really is the most stable and reliable source of funding for the bus system. Overall, we need to look for ways to increase funding from all sources that help the bus system operate, and this is a good first step in that direction," said Ms. Clement.
Public comment on the proposed increase, which would take effect next summer if approved, is being taken through the end of November. Comments can be submitted by email, or to the address below:
Superintendent Sheridan Steele
ATTN: Fee Change Comments
Acadia National Park
PO Box 177
Bar Harbor, ME 04609