Cars and pedestrians crowd the parking lot at the summit of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in this September 2015 file photo. To help reduce congestion at the summit, Acadia officials are planning to require vehicle reservations and a $6 per-vehicle reservation fee to drive up the mountain this summer. Credit: Bill Trotter / BDN

Acadia National Park plans to charge $6 for each vehicle to drive up Cadillac Mountain this summer. The change is part of the park’s plans to require reservations for cars as a way of reducing congestion at the summit of the park’s highest peak.

The park would start collecting the fee in mid-May and would stop sometime in late October, repeating the seasonal cycle each year. The reservation system, which will require each visitor to drive up the road at a certain time, is aimed at reducing vehicle congestion at the summit of Cadillac Mountain, which is one of the most popular attractions in Acadia. It also is part of a broader plan to reduce overall vehicle congestion in the park.

The park had more than 3.3 million visits each year from 2016 through 2019, consistently setting records before traffic dropped to 2.67 million visits last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The park has not previously required reservations to drive up the Cadillac Mountain summit road, nor has it charged private motorists a fee to do so. In recent years, the park on occasion has had to close the road to motorists who wanted to drive to the summit because of congestion at the top, where visitors enjoy the sunrise and sunset.

Reservations will not be required for people who want to hike or bicycle up the mountain. The road to the summit is closed in the winter.

Of the proposed $6 fee, $4 would go to the National Park Service to help fund operational and capital costs, while $2 would go toward the administrative costs of, which is the contracted online reservation service provider. The $6 reservation fee would be in addition to the park entrance fee, which varies from $15 to $55.

The park held a trial period for the reservation system in October, requiring reservation holders to show their confirmation to a ranger stationed at the bottom of the summit road. A similar vehicle reservation system for Ocean Drive, where Sand Beach and Thunder Hole are located, also went through a trial period last fall. Park officials decided not to require reservations for Ocean Drive this summer, though they are expected to do so in 2022.

The park service is soliciting public comment on the proposed reservation fee for Cadillac Mountain. People can submit comments online through Feb. 11.

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A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....