A family walks and hops along the shore of Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park. Local businesses are worried that a looming federal shutdown will close the park as it did during peak foliage season in 2013. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Bar Harbor’s hoteliers, restaurateurs and other tourism-based business owners are holding their collective breath as a potential government shutdown draws near, threatening to close one of the area’s greatest attractions just as the busy fall season is picking up steam.

Acadia National Park drew nearly 4 million visitors last year, contributing $479 million to the local economy. It’s a vital economic engine for the state and the surrounding area, especially during leaf-peeping season when tourists arrive to see the vibrant fall foliage, replenishing visitation following the end-of-summer dip. But the park is likely to close if Congress cannot reach a budget agreement before Sunday, the first day of the new fiscal year.

There are too many unknowns to put a number on the potential economic impact of a park closure, but business owners are counting on a robust fall shoulder season to make up for an unusually rainy summer, said Becky Jacobson, executive director of HospitalityMaine, a trade association representing the state’s restaurants and hotels.

“Everybody’s trying to keep their fingers crossed that we won’t be faced with another (shutdown),” she said.

The park has been closed by government shutdowns twice in recent memory: a full closure for 16 days in October 2013 and a partial closure for 35 days in late 2018 and early 2019.

During the 2013 closure, which also coincided with the peak foliage season, communities near the park suffered a $16.2 million loss from the government shutdown – the third-largest loss in the nation. Visitations were one-third of a normal October.


The 2018-19 closure was harder to put a number on. The duration was more than double that of the 2013 shutdown, but it was in December and January, when much of the park and most of the area businesses are closed. It also was a softer closure; people were still allowed into the park to walk, hike and bike, but park services were limited and the Park Loop Road was closed to vehicles.

“The time of year is the most significant aspect to the shutdown,” said Stephanie Clement, vice president of conservation at Friends of Acadia, a nonprofit that promotes stewardship of the national park.

Clement estimated that Acadia National Park visitation contributes about $1.73 million to the surrounding communities per day in October.

Any level of shutdown wouldn’t have that severe of an impact – people will still visit the surrounding areas if the park is closed – but it is a concern. As is the number of federal employees who will be without a paycheck for an undetermined period.

Acadia National Park has about 90 full-time and 150 seasonal employees.

Friends of Acadia has promised to keep its roughly four full-time and six seasonal employees employed. But there’s still an impact on morale.


“I’ll be honest, it’s a bummer,” Clement said. “It’s an incredibly sad time. … If people in Washington can’t come to an agreement, it takes away from the American public’s ability to enjoy this natural resource.”


But even if the park is closed, Bar Harbor is still a great fall destination and visitation won’t cease completely, said Everal Eaton, executive director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

One hand washes the other, he said – Bar Harbor helps draw visitors to Acadia National Park and people visiting Acadia National Park are likely to visit Bar Harbor, too. He’s waiting for Acadia National Park to release guidance, but said information likely won’t be available until late in the week.

Kristi Losquadro, owner of the Saltair Inn and president of the Bar Harbor Bed and Breakfast Association, hasn’t heard a peep from guests concerned about the shutdown.

October is the busiest time of year for her eight-room inn. She fills up for fall months before she fills up for the summer, with visitors drawn by the cooler temperatures and fall foliage.


A park closure would certainly be disappointing for guests, she said, but there’s enough to do in and around Bar Harbor, like explore the trails and gardens managed by the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve.

“It’s happened before and we all survived it before,” she said. Previous shutdowns didn’t impact lodging numbers either, especially for smaller inns like hers, she said.

Eric Allvin, co-owner of Holbrook House, a 13-room bed-and-breakfast, said previous closures haven’t had a substantial impact on business, and he’s not expecting it to this time, either. The inn is fully booked, minus a few sporadic openings, until it closes for the season Oct. 22.

If anything, during the last closure the guests enjoyed how quiet the Park Loop Road was without any bus or car traffic.

Allvin is happy to speak with any guests who have concerns, but he hasn’t heard from any yet.

Jacobson, at HospitalityMaine, hopes it remains that way.

“Even if the park is shut down, Bar Harbor is open for business,” she said.

The National Park Service declined to answer questions Tuesday about the level of closure or when more information could be expected.

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