WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Officials say America's national parks had 327 million visits in 2019 -- nearly equal to the entire population of the United States.
Acadia has tried to ease the congestion problem with expanded park and ride options, and the new reservation system for people who want to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain.
The Senate's National Parks Subcommittee, which Sen. Angus King chairs, addressed the problem of overcrowding in the most popular parks Wednesday morning.
"We can accidentally love our parks to death," King said. "Overcrowding can also significantly harm the visitor experience and strain the resources in gateway communities, souring what should be a once in a lifetime vacation. Watching the sunrise from the top of Cadillac Mountain is a wonderful experience. Staring at the tail lights of the car in front of you as you're trying to get up the mountain and find a parking place, not so much."
Acadia Superintendent Kevin Schneider testified that the reservation program is helping, and they've spread the word with 200,000 information cards about how it works.
"We don't want visitors showing up and saying 'what do you mean I need a reservation?' And we distributed those to our lodging partners, to the welcome centers throughout the state, the chambers of commerce and so on," Schneider said. "When you make a lodging reservation around here many of the hotels will send you an email saying 'don't forget to make your reservation with a link to the recreation.gov website.'"
King suggested that the National Park Service find ways to encourage visitors to seek out lesser known parks.
The park service has a new mobile app that can help people find places of interest near them, along with downloadable content to use when you're in a remote area without internet access.