Unlawful tenting at Maine’s Acadia Nationwide Park is on the rise

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The number of visitors – and illegal campers – has increased during the pandemic.

The pink granite cliffs of Maine’s Mount Desert Island in Acadia National Park. Jerry & Marcy Monkman/The Boston Globe

The number of illegal campers in Acadia National Park in Maine is increasing, according to a park spokesman.

Acadia spokesman Sean Bonnage told the Bangor Daily News that illegal camping ranges from people setting up illegal campgrounds in the forest, to sleeping in their vehicles in parking lots, to “long-term, full-fledged camping facilities with tents and illegal fire rings. Bonnage said this is nothing new, but park rangers have seen a spike in some cases since the pandemic.

In 2019, rangers counted 146 illegal camping incidents in the park. In 2020, as the pandemic restricted visitor numbers, the number of illegal camping cases rose to 198. The following year, rangers recorded 182 illegal camping cases, a 25 percent increase from 2019. Bonnage said the park was open between 150 and 180 cases again this year.

For those who want to spend a night in Acadia without having to set foot inside, the park offers reservations at several campgrounds. Prices range from $22 to $60 per night, depending on accommodation and visitor traffic. None of the park’s campgrounds opened in 2020 due to the pandemic, which likely contributed to the number of illegal campers, Bonnage said.

Visitor attendance at Acadia has increased over the past two years, with 4 million visitors recorded in 2021. Bonnage said the increase in park guests has certainly influenced the increase in illegal camping incidents.

“Visitorship during the summer months in Acadia has steadily increased over the past decade, and we believe this is the bigger reason for the increase in illegal camping solicitations, rather than the pandemic,” he told the news.

Bonnage also attributed the increase in incidents to the lack of affordable housing on Mount Desert Island, the largest island off the coast of Maine. Much of Acadia National Park is on the island, along with several well-known summer colonies and resorts. Accommodating seasonal workers and guests has become a significant concern for the park.

“The park also sees at least a few contacts that are contacted repeatedly each year, and the individuals are often homeless,” Bonnage said.

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