National Park Service (NPS) planners prepare a variety of planning and environmental documents to help guide park management. These documents can range from detailed site-specific impact analyses on facility locations to topic-specific plans for future use and management of particular focus areas. Park plans must also be consistent with all other applicable laws, regulations, and policies at the federal, state, and local levels. Two key laws which guide park planning are the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), which partially dictate the processes and methods by which park plans are developed and their potential impacts and effects are analyzed.

You are an important part of the planning process! Public comments help identify the range of issues that should be addressed in major planning efforts. Public scrutiny of proposed actions helps to ensure that project actions are consistent with the National Park Service mission, enabling legislation, and other relevant laws and policies. Each major planning process usually provides numerous opportunities for public involvement, and two formal periods of public comment. You can learn explore opportunities for public comment and view past plans at the NPS at the PEPC: Planning, Environment & Public Comment

Learn more about some of the larger scale planning efforts that have guided the future of Acadia National Park.


Transportation Plan

Acadia National Park began a planning effort tn summer 2015 to address traffic congestion, public safety, resource protection, and visitor experience concerns.The process took a great deal of time, energy, collaboration, and input by neighboring town governments, chambers of commerce, industry partners, communities, stakeholders, staff, and the public. Key components of the plan include the Island Explorer bus system, vehicle reservation systems, tour bus management, infrastructure construction and improvements, ongoing monitoring, and an adaptive management approach. Learn more on our Transportation Plan page.

Park Foundation Document

The Foundation Document for Acadia National Park, first published in September 2016, is now available for free download online (80 pages, 16.5 MB, PDF, screen reader accessible). Every unit of the national park system will have a foundational document to provide basic guidance for planning and management decisions—a foundation for planning and management. The core components of a foundation document include a brief description of the park as well as the park’s purpose, significance, fundamental resources and values, other important resources and values, and interpretive themes. The foundation document also includes special mandates and administrative commitments, an assessment of planning and data needs that identifies planning issues, planning products to be developed, and the associated studies and data required for park planning.

General Management Plan

The park's 1992 General Management Plan was the last full scale General Management Plan for the park. Management plans provide direction and guidance on a variety of issues and topics such as resource preservation, visitor use, development, and boundary management. Parks can develop management plans to meet broad park management goals or to address specific park issues, and these plans often articulate management objectives and describe future conditions.

Plans are prepared by interdisciplinary teams including the park superintendent and staff, landscape architects, community planners, specialists in natural and cultural resources, environmental design specialists, concessions management specialists, interpretation experts, and professionals in other fields, as needed.

Climbing Management Plan

Climbing has been a popular activity in Acadia for a very long time.

In 1997 a Climbing Management Plan was completed with public input, and it continues to guide climbing management in the park. Development of this plan, along with legislative mandates and NPS policy, helped formulate the regulations and guidelines described here. As an important part of climbing management, a Climbing Advisory Group consisting of climbers, park staff, and others makes recommendations to the superintendent on climbing issues. The advisory group works through the existing Acadia National Park Advisory Commission.

Climbing Management Actions

The following management actions have been taken since the Climbing Management Plan was approved:
  1. A limited amount of fixed protection was installed by park staff at Otter Cliffs in 1998 to protect soils and vegetation from further damage. Climbers must use these anchors and should use gear to protect other climbs at Otter Cliffs in order to protect trees formerly used for belays. Some vegetative restoration work also took place and two roped exclosures have protected soil and vegetation since 1998. With the help of climbers, these areas are recovering nicely.
  2. A portable toilet is installed every year in the parking area at Otter Cliffs. Climbers are strongly encouraged to use it to avoid creating more social trails at the top of the cliffs.
  3. A self-administered registration card system began in August 1997. It was discontinued, four years later having served its primarily educational purpose.
  4. Climbing registration boxes have been installed and maintained at Otter Cliffs, the Precipice, South Bubble, and Canada Cliffs. Data is available for the first two sites since 1994. More than 4,000 climbers register at Otter Cliffs, more than 1,500 at the South Wall, and more than 1,200 at South Bubble. The reliability of self-registration boxes is not very high, and registration has never been validated at either site. Nonetheless, the data are relatively consistent and useful for evaluating trends. Registration sites also serve an educational purpose by providing climbing regulations and guidelines on-site and offer an opportunity for climbers to provide feedback to park staff.
  5. Local climbers assisted the park trail crew with the installation of new educational exhibits at the Otter Cliffs and Precipice rock climbing areas in the fall of 2016. Local climbers helped develop the sign content, park staff designed the signs, and park volunteers built the rustic wooden framework. The exhibits were funded by the Access Fund, a national climber organization, and Friends of Acadia, Acadia National Park, and a private donor.

Last updated: April 25, 2022

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