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Acadia National Park Officials Proposing Slight Change In Visitor Capacity For Isle Au Haut

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Acadia National Park lands on the southern shore, Isle au Haut, from Western Ear/NPS

One of the great destinations at Acadia National Park isn't on Mount Desert Island off Maine's coast. Rather, it's down coast a bit, on the Isle au Haut, where roughly half of the island is part of the national park. While the Park Service has been working with daily visitor limits since the late 1980s, park officials now want to update those numbers, and hope you'll lend your thoughts.

The purpose of the Visitor Use Management Plan is to "re-establish a science-based visitor carrying capacity for the Isle au Haut district and prescribe other visitor management actions to protect park resources and provide high-quality visitor experiences," the park says in a release. "Isle au Haut offers opportunities for recreation in a remote island setting that are not found elsewhere in Acadia National Park. Visitor surveys show that the natural beauty and solitude experienced on Isle au Haut rank high among the qualities most enjoyed by visitors."

While the Park Service is supposed to review visitor capacity levels every five years, the plan established in the late 1980s -- 90 day-use visitors and up to 30 campers at the Duck Harbor Campground -- has never been modified. The visitor carrying capacity for Isle au Haut is proposed to rise from a total of 120 visitors per day to 128 visitors per day, and limit to six the number of days in July and August that this capacity will be allowed to exceed 128 total visitors per day. This six-day limit means that visitation for 90 percent of days in July and August will be 128 or less. Since 2002, the 128-person limit has been exceeded four times, according to the park.

You can find the proposed Visitor Use Management Plan at this site, and leave your comments there, too. Comments are being taken through September 5.

Other major actions described in this plan include: monitoring visitor experiences through surveys every three years; establishing resource condition standards for trails and campsites and monitoring for them; retaining the primitive character of trails; reviewing campground layout and design to identify opportunities to enhance privacy and resource protection; continuing to maintain the park road; and continuing a non-promotion policy for Isle au Haut with other park visitors unless they ask.

The plan is not a General Management Plan for the Isle au Haut district of Acadia National Park. Nor does it address broader park management issues such as wildlife management or fire protection.


Here's our latest blog post on Acadia National Park's draft Isle au Haut plan and the Aug. 5 hearing on it. Might the park's official non-promotion policy be leading to recent drops in visitation,  truly making Isle au Haut the quietest side of Acadia?

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