Friday, April 18, 2014
BAR HARBOR — Troy Mace was prepared to feed a lunchtime lobster bake to 250 people on Tuesday.
Despite the closed sign, Titus Steinberg, 5, of Herne, Germany, hops over the gate at Acadia National Park’s Echo Lake in Southwest Harbor on Wednesday, along with his parents Oliver, at left, and Ramona.
Gabe Souza / Staff Photographer
At 9 a.m., he got a call. The cruise ship tour for 150 had canceled the reservation for two hours later.
At 10:30 a.m., he got another call. The second seating wasn’t coming in either.
Bar Harbor Lobster Bakes, whose business model relies on serving large groups of tourists who come through Acadia National Park, has lost more than 300 customers and thousands of dollars since the park closed Tuesday because of the federal government shutdown.
“I feel betrayed,” said Mace as he watered flowers outside his restaurant Wednesday. “I’m a loyal American who pays taxes and votes, and I feel like those guys aren’t doing their jobs.”
Bar Harbor Lobster Bakes is close to the Hulls Cove entrance to the park, but a couple miles from the downtown. So tour groups – Mace’s only customers – have no reason, or way, to get to the restaurant if they’re not going to the park.
Other restaurants and shops along Bar Harbor’s main drag were busy Wednesday, but employees said they feared what would happen if the park stayed closed and the bus tours and cruise ships stopped coming.
“That’s going to absolutely crush the local economy here,” said Andy Cough, owner of Acadia National Park Tours, which buses people from downtown Bar Harbor through the park and back.
At this time of year – what he called “a lot of people’s gravy” – his 44-passenger buses are always filled. But more than 25 percent of his reservations have canceled since the shutdown, he said. The rest have opted for the tour he’s offering around the rest of Mount Desert Island.
With only a small cruise ship coming in on Thursday, a total of 12 people are signed up for his two tours. He expects half of them to cancel.
“I think what we’re in for is really going to show,” said Cough.
Charles Phippen, Bar Harbor’s harbormaster, said an agent for the Holland America Line has indicated that if Acadia stays closed, its ships will reroute to Portland.
The Veendam, a 1,350-passenger ship, is scheduled to be in Bar Harbor on Friday and again on Sunday. The Eurodam, which holds more than 2,000 passengers, is supposed to arrive Saturday.
Phippen said 37 ships are scheduled to come in through October, including several owned by Holland America.
That’s what concerns Amanda Austin, manager of Testa’s Restaurant on Main Street. Austin keeps a calendar of the ships that are coming in and the number of passengers they carry. It’s in a red binder that she held Wednesday.
“It’s how we decide how much staff we have working, how much lobster we order – everything,” she said.
The Bluenose Inn isn’t as tied to the cruise ships, but it does depend on business from bus tours, which can fill up as many as half of the 97 rooms in the hotel, said General Manager Jim Ash.
So far, none of the tour bus groups have canceled their reservations. “ ‘So far’ is the operative term,” he said.
But a handful of other customers have canceled, Ash said. Another handful left early.
“If I seem bitter about it, I am,” he said. “It’s a disgrace that this has happened.”
As visitors from Lancaster, Pa., loaded onto their Conestoga Tours bus after shopping downtown Wednesday afternoon, the bus driver, Eric Stein, said they were upset that they couldn’t get into the park, which he said is half the attraction of Bar Harbor.
“You take half of it away, it doesn’t make them all that happy,” he said.
But people who came on their own, and were determined to get into the park, made sure that they did.
Cars with out-of-state plates filled parking lots, lined streets and crowded driveways near several entrances to the park. Hikers stepped over locked gates to access the trails.
Selina Mochizuki, her husband and 2-year-old son took advantage of having Echo Lake Beach to themselves for a while.
She said she was paying attention to the news on Monday, before they left their home in Greensboro, Vt., but they had already rented a house in Southwest Harbor.
“We weren’t going to let that stop us,” she said of the imminent shutdown.
Mochizuki’s husband, Jon Ramsay, said he assumed that it was all right for them to use the trails, but the park’s chief ranger, Stuart West, said that’s not the case.
West, one of 15 park employees who were working Wednesday, down from the usual 206, said rangers were patrolling the park, asking people to leave. Long-term campers were given extra time to make alternative plans. West said campers at about 30 sites in the Blackwoods Campground were still there on Wednesday, and would have to be gone by 11 a.m. Thursday.
Several hikers said Wednesday they were disappointed about the change in their vacation plans, but felt worse for the people who were out of work.
West wouldn’t say how the shutdown had affected the morale of his employees. But Sharon Stencel of Sacramento, Calif., had no trouble expressing her feelings.
Stencel and her husband recently renewed their vows and came to Acadia to celebrate the honeymoon they never had.
“I never would have come this far north,” Stencel said, if she had known the shutdown was coming.
Aware that the park was closed, Stencel drove to the Hulls Cove entrance Wednesday with a different purpose.
Standing in front of a flashing sign announcing the shutdown and closure, she smiled wide and held up her two middle fingers for her husband, who held a camera in front of her.
She said she would send the picture to her congressman.
Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: