Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is beautiful but very crowded. If you have not been to Acadia before you may have an idea of it being a remote wilderness. It's not. I'm mostly going to complain about the park here so if that's not something you're interested in then you shouldn't bother reading this. The roads on Desert Island to Acadia are clogged with traffic in the summer. Bar Harbor is cute but completely overrun with tourists. Robert Moses and Theodore Roosevelt's thinking about parks influenced the development of parks all over the US. In Acadia, their influence is manifest in the one way limited access loop road that encircles the park and the uncomfortable, barracks like, main campground. Moses designed parks to look good from the back seat of a chauffeur driven car and to look good on a map but not necessarily work well from a functional perspective. Roosevelt was obsessed with the idea that men and boys should spend time toughening up in the wilderness. The continuing influence Roosevelt's thinking helps explain why there are no public showers in national park campgrounds. In practice though the lack of showers and other facilities in campgrounds simply punishes people who camp in tents rather than RVs and it forces people to drive in and out of the park to use facilities like coin operated showers, grocery stores and hotels. Building facilities and more campsites inside parks would reduce traffic coming in and out of parks. But instead of putting things that people need where they need them, the park service in Acadia forces people to drive even further distances by building a limited-access one-way loop road in what I assume is a desperate, misguided attempt to control traffic.
Acadia National Park has two main sections on Desert Island plus two additional satellite areas. The largest and oldest section of Acadia is on the Eastern side of Desert Island along with the town of Bar Harbor. Travel between the Eastern and Western sections on Desert Island is difficult. Road conditions are generally bad and traffic is horrible. Most of the traffic on these roads comes from countless visitors to the towns and villages on Desert Island and the many private resorts and cabins. The most dramatic scenery and most of the trails and points of interest in Acadia are on the Eastern side. Travel in the Eastern side of the park is mostly confined to a Robert Moses inspired, 18 mile, limited access one-way loop. There are only a few points where the loop road can be accessed from the regular streets on the island. The two street systems frequently cross at points where going from one to the other is impossible. You have to drive almost the entire 18 mile loop road in some cases to go back one mile if you miss a turn. This forces people to drive countless extra miles in circles wasting fuel and time and adding additional traffic to the clogged roads. The only campground in the Eastern section is the massive, barracks like Backwoods campground. Getting from the campground to the shore which would be a 200 foot hike if there were a trail (there is not) requires an 8 mile drive. None of the main points of interest are convenient to the campground and only one trail is accessible from the campground. In practice, this forces the vast majority of people using the campground to drive 10 to 30 miles to get groceries, take showers, go on hikes or go to the beach. Many of those using the campground do all of this driving in massive RVs. There is a shuttle bus that travels the loop road and busses that travel into the park and around the island from Bar Harbor. The bus trip around the loop road takes 1 hour and 15 minutes and runs every half hour from 9 to 5. So if you depend on the bus to get around the park, it could take you an hour and a half to go two miles if your destination is against the one-way flow of traffic. There are no bike lanes on the loop road or any bike paths with separate rights of way on the island so the one-way traffic flow also applies to bikes. The layout of Acadia seems designed to induce traffic, waste gas and keep people inside vehicles. Of all of the parks I've been to in the National Parks system Acadia has the worst transportation design. Arches in Utah is a close second.
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