BAR HARBOR (NEWS CENTER Maine) – The ever-growing popularity of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor has locals bracing for yet another potentially record-breaking season this year.
Over the last ten years visitation to Acadia has increased nearly 60 percent, with last year’s record-breaking 3.5 million visitors.
That has made Bar Harbor a top destination for tourists. The town was just ranked No. 2 on a list of the top ten U.S. Vacation Destinations by TripAdvisor.
"This is vastly different from anything we've ever seen,” Chris Mendez said.
Mendez and his wife Sharon were visiting Acadia for the first time on their second wedding anniversary.
The couple from Texas is just one of thousands of first-time tourists already flocking to the iconic spot, as the park works to keep up with the overwhelming influx of people year after year.
“If you look at our visitation trends and you assume that they're going to continue, even on a very moderate scale, the number of people coming to the Acadia National Park in the surrounding towns is going to continue to increase,” Christie Anastasia, a spokesperson for Acadia National Park, said.
Park visitors contributed more than $284 million to the local economy, according to the latest economic impact report.
That report examined the influence of visitors on businesses within a 60-mile radius of the park.
That money has been great for businesses in the town of Bar Harbor, including Side Street Café.
“I think the biggest challenge this year, it's finding enough help to get through the full season,” Jeff Young said.
Young and his wife Jena own the year-round restaurant and adjoining juice bar. They said since their business started ten years ago they have been forced to grow every year, expanding the building and their workforce.
"It has its challenges because every year we have to kinda reinvent the wheel,” Jena Young said.
They require 80 employees each year to sustain the business, but this year they have had 16 of their H2B visa requests denied, and they cannot find all the help they need locally.
Young, who is also president of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce, said most businesses in the area are looking for help, but insisted they are still ready and eager to welcome visitors.
"As with anything you can only grow to a certain point and I think there are enough people in this community and within this town and on this island who really care genuinely about this place,” she said.
The National Park Service is still working on a transportation plan for the region to continue its work to better accommodate visitors.
You can learn more about that plan and public information sessions here.