This time it’s Mother Nature, not Congress, closing parts of Acadia

Despite the opening this weekend of the summit road up Cadillac Mountain, there are some seasonal facilities at Acadia National Park that have yet to open because of ongoing disagreements in Congress over the federal budget. Much of the Park Loop Road remains closed to motor vehicles, as do some restrooms, and won’t open until this Friday, May 17.

Sometimes Acadia officials close certain areas of the park for reasons unrelated to finances. This past week, they announced that part of a mountain trail would be closed due to birds and that another area adjacent to a waterfront trail would be roped off to protect vegetation.

Peregrine falcons have been observed defending nesting territories and engaging in breeding behavior at Jordan Cliffs, park officials indicated last week in a prepared statement. The species is listed as an endangered species under the Maine Endangered Species Act.

Acadia has closed the cliff area and trail to all visitor and operational activities until further notice. The closure includes the area known as Jordan Cliffs and Jordan Cliffs Trail, on the eastern side of Jordan Ridge and Penobscot Mountain. If chicks are born, the trail will remain closed for several weeks until after the chicks take their first flight, or fledge, from their nests, which likely would be in early August. If the park biologist determines later this spring or in early summer that the nesting attempt has failed, the trail may be opened earlier, park officials indicated.

Park officials also indicated they planned to install rope barriers along the edges of the Wonderland Trail, off Route 102A between Seawall and Bass Harbor, in order to protect an rare oceanfront plant community from foot traffic.

Acadia officials said the mixed vegetation, a combination of pitch pine and broom crowberry, is an unusual association of the two plants, according to the U.S. National Vegetation Classification system. The combination is known to occur only in Maine and New York, and only 20 to 30 occurrences have been documented.

Foot traffic can be especially damaging to broom crowberry, a small, densely branched
evergreen shrub that forms a springy carpet less than a foot tall. It is a rare plant in Acadia and in the northeast generally, park officials said. It can live up to 50 years and prefers sandy soils or, as is the case in Acadia, open rocky ledges.

“Pitch pine prefers the same type of habitat, and while common in the park, is near the northern limit of its range,” Acadia officials added. “In other parts of their ranges, both species are dependent on fire to encourage reproduction, but ecologists are uncertain whether that is the case in the harsh, rocky, and barren habitats where it is found in the park.”

Park ecologists regularly monitor the condition of the 13.5-acre plant community off the Wonderland Trail. They ask visitors to help protect this rare area by staying on the trail.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for 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. He writes about fisheries, marine-related topics, eastern coastal Maine communities and more for the BDN. He lives in Ellsworth. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.