BAR HARBOR, ME (BRAIN) — On this critical Columbus Day weekend, auto traffic and hotel vacancies are down — but the bike riding is great — in this harbor town that serves as the entry point to Acadia National Park. The federal government shutdown means the park is closed to motorized traffic and the streets and shops in Bar Harbor are quiet.
However, park rangers appear to be looking the other way when it comes to hiking and biking on the park's paved roads and 45 miles of gravel carriage roads. That's good news for local cyclists and visitors who like to rent bikes to ride on the carriage roads.
"The local cyclists are loving it, it's a nicer park being car-free, no doubt about it, " said Joe Minutolo, owner of Bar Harbor Bicycle Shop. "But it's having an effect overall; the volume of people (in town) is way down."
According to local news reports, rangers have ticketed visitors who defied road closure signs and drove motorized vehicles, including scooters, into Acadia since the shutdown. But walkers and bike riders are not being fined.
"The park has responded very well, we have a great superintendent. You know, it's not the park people, it's the congress people who made this problem," Minutolo said.
According to the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, the shutdown cost Acadia more than 68,000 lost visitors in its first 10 days and an estimated $5.2 million in lost visitor dollars.
The Department of the Interior has agreed to allow some parks to re-open with state or local funding. Maine officials have indicated they can't afford to re-open Acadia. However, in Utah, where the shutdown threatened mountain bike tour companies' business, several parks are set to re-open Friday or this weekend.