Acadia National Park will reopen its Park Loop Road and public restrooms Monday, and Maine will begin allowing access to several coastal state parks that had been closed since March.

The Acadia announcement, which was made Thursday by park officials, is the first step toward fully reopening what the National Park Service describes as the “crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast.”

Acadia National Park’s popular Park Loop Road, seen last summer, will reopen June 1, park officials said Thursday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The National Park Service closed the park indefinitely to visitors on March 25, just a couple of days before Maine shut down 10 coastal parks on March 27 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among visitors.

But the state will allow public access to those 10 parks: Popham Beach State Park, Fort Popham and Fort Baldwin in Phippsburg; Kettle Cove State Park, Two Lights State Park and Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth; Reed State Park in Georgetown, Scarborough Beach State Park in Scarborough, Ferry Beach State Park in Saco and Mackworth Island in Falmouth beginning Monday.

“We have closely aligned our operations with the State of Maine’s phased reopening,” Acadia park Superintendent Kevin Schneider said in a news release Thursday. “Our adapted operations will place the safety of our visitors, employees, local communities and volunteers as the highest priority.”

Acadia attracts about 3.5 million visitors a year, making it one of the 10 most visited national parks in the country. The National Park Service said that in 2019 Acadia had the seventh-highest number of visitors among the national parks, more than Grand Teton and Olympic national parks, and just behind Yellowstone and Yosemite.

In addition to allowing traffic on Park Loop Road, park rangers will begin providing limited information services to the public in open air tents outside the Hulls Cove Visitor Center. The Jordan Pond House restaurant will be open for takeout starting Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with seating offered inside and outside the restaurant. The Jordan Pond House Gift Shop and Cadillac Mountain Eco Store will be open for business Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Park Loop Road takes visitors to Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain and other popular sites inside the park. But not all of its visitor attractions and services will be accessible Monday.

The Thunder Hole Gift Shop will open later this summer at a date to be determined, and Carriages of Acadia at Wildwood Stables won’t be resuming horse-drawn carriage rides until mid-June at the earliest.

Acadia’s carriage roads are heavily used by bicyclists and pedestrians, but will open to pedestrians only starting June 5. Park officials said downed trees, washouts and winter maintenance problems that went unaddressed because of the pandemic have created conditions that are not safe for equestrian and bicycle use. There are 45 miles of carriage roads in the park.

Entry fees will be charged once the Park Loop road opens. Park passes can be purchased online and should  be printed out and displayed on a vehicle’s dashboard. The Sand Beach entrance station will open June 8 for credit card purchases. Purchasing passes online will help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Acadia said it expects visitors to comply with federal and state guidelines for physical social distancing. Park officials said visitors should maintain a distance of 6 feet from other parties in addition to wearing some type of face covering. The public is also being asked to avoid high-risk outdoor activities that might lead to injuries that require emergency response.

The Island Explorer bus service has been suspended indefinitely and campgrounds located inside the park will remain closed until July 1. Campers who made advance reservations will be contacted and issued refunds. Park officials are urging campers to use private campgrounds located near the park.

Acadia said it will continue to work closely with the National Park Service Office of Public Health to ensure that public spaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees and others. If the pandemic should take a turn for the worse in the weeks ahead, Acadia will re-evaluate its decision to allow visitors.

There will also be restrictions imposed on the state’s coastal parks when they reopen Monday. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said on its website that visitors will encounter reduced parking to reduce overcrowding. There will be limited access to park restrooms.

The state is also asking visitors to heed physical distancing guidelines and to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible, and to limit their length of stay so that others can enjoy the park.

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