WINTER HARBOR — Every morning Richard Gerrish drives a few miles from his home to the Schoodic Peninsula entrance of Acadia National Park. Then he circles the peninsula’s perimeter road to take in the stunning ocean views as he travels to the sunny side. There he parks and walks a few miles to help rehabilitate a back that gives him chronic pain.

Gerrish grew up here, made his life beside Schoodic Peninsula, and wouldn’t consider moving from the park that has been his family’s neighbor for at least three generations.

“Ever since I got a driver’s license, I’ve been coming down here,” said Gerrish, 70, as he walked along the crashing ocean and rocky coast. “I love my park, but I don’t like what they are doing to it. They used to say the Schoodic Peninsula was the best-kept secret. Well, they found us the last five years.”

Gerrish describes the peninsula as a place that always has been welcoming and uncrowded, from the town dinners held in Winter Harbor that draw both famous summer visitors and local lobstermen to the wealthy summer residents who anonymously donate to the local volunteer fire department.

When Gerrish, a former firefighter and volunteer EMT in Winter Harbor, retired 10 years ago, he went on a tour of the country’s national parks, historic sites and monuments, and saw as many as 150. He loved the big-sky country in the West and the immense scope of the Alaskan parks, but prefers his hometown that sits tucked away on the Maine coast, far from city life.

He doesn’t go to the main part of the park on Mount Desert Island during tourist season.

“I wouldn’t go near the island in the summer,” he said. “Now I’m afraid they’ll turn us into a mini Bar Harbor.”

Until recently, Winter Harbor and the Schoodic campus of Acadia National Park have been a quiet, sleepy coastal enclave. While Acadia park officials expect visitors to Maine’s national park to eclipse 3 million this year, Gerrish hopes the rising number of tourists do not flock to Schoodic and change the peace and solitude he enjoys here every morning.

“I don’t know anyone who comes down here as much as I do,” he said. “I love this place.”

– Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming