July 8, 2014
Contact: John Kelly
The National Park Service (NPS) today announced the release of the Draft Visitor Use Management Plan (VUMP) for the Isle au Haut District in Acadia National Park and is now seeking public review and written comments. You may find the Draft VUMP and provide comments at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/Isle_au_Haut_VisitorUsePlan. Alternately, paper copies are now available at public libraries and town offices in Isle au Haut, Stonington, and Deer Isle or can be requested by calling the park planner, John Kelly, at 207-288-8703. Written comments may also be mailed to Sheridan Steele, Park Superintendent, PO Box 177, Bar Harbor, Maine 04609, and will be accepted until September 5, 2014.
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. Isle au Haut is an island in Knox County, Maine, of which approximately half is in private ownership and half (3,200-acres) is federally-owned and administered as part of Acadia National Park by the NPS. 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.
This plan was prepared to comply with Public Law 99-335, passed in 1982. The law set a permanent boundary for the park on Isle au Haut, and directed the NPS to preserve island resources, provide low-density recreational experiences, preserve the character of the town of Isle au Haut and its resource-based economy, and minimize adverse effects of park visitors on the local community and its residents. The law also requires the NPS to establish a visitor carrying capacity, and review the capacity every five years. A visitor capacity of 90 day-use visitors and up to 30 campers at the Duck Harbor Campground was established by the NPS in the late 1980s, and has never been modified. The plan was developed based on research specific to Isle au Haut correlating resource condition to visitor use levels, social science research on visitor and resident preferences for encountering other visitors while recreating on Isle au Haut, and several public workshops seeking input from visitors and residents.
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% of days in July and August will be 128 or less. Since 2002, the 128-person limit has been exceeded four times.
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.