April 02, 2020

Disaster Area> Acadia; Damage at park minimal

ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — The worst ice storm in recent history didn’t leave out Maine’s national park.

Heavy ice snapped Acadia National Park’s tree branches like toothpicks, toppled its 60-foot radio tower and briefly stranded a woman and her dog off the Park Loop Road on Sunday morning.

But overalll, assistant superintendent Len Bobinchock said Tuesday, Acadia survived last week’s catastrophic ice storms fairly well. “We really had minimal damage, and that’s probably because of our close proximity to the coast,” he said.

Like most of Mount Desert Island, Acadia was spared the prolonged icing seen in most of the state. Crews taking inventory of the damage at lower elevations didn’t find “too much” damage Monday, according to Jim Vekasi, chief of maintenance. “We do have branches down, but it’s nothing really serious,” he said.

Still, many trees were heavily iced last Thursday and Friday — especially those at higher elevations — and many branches broke. The condition of most hiking trails and roads closed for the season have yet to be assessed.

On Saturday, rangers climbed a slick-faced Cadillac Mountain and discovered why the park’s internal communications system wasn’t working: A 60-foot antenna and radio tower used by Acadia and the U.S. Coast Guard had toppled under 8 to 10 inches of ice. The park and the Coast Guard have erected temporary antennas. Permanent ones will be installed this spring.

Park officials considered the park’s forest area largely spared compared to other forests throughout the state. “There’s going to need to be some cleanup but it’s not going to affect the appearance or health of the forest,” said Vekasi.

Although park officials believe they will be able to recoup cleanup expenses from the government, the Friends of Acadia advocacy group already has offered support.

On Sunday morning, rangers rescued Britt Hulbert, 28, of Bar Harbor, who was stranded on a slope of ice near the West Street extension off the Park Loop Road. According to Ranger Jim Grover, the woman ventured down the slope to rescue her dog, which had become stranded on ice. Halfway down, she discovered she could go neither up nor down.

The incident, which ended when Grover and Ranger George Leone put on studded metal footwear and escorted the woman to safety, should serve as a lesson to others, Grover said.

“Ice conditions now are exceedingly difficult, even more so than in a regular winter,” Grover said Monday. “It sometimes gives us fits to see what people attempt in terms of their preparation and capability. [Under the current conditions], there’s no reason to do much walking in the park.”

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