Example Vista: Sunset at Blue Hill Overlook at Acadia National Park

Blue Hill Overlook is managed as developed frontcountry sacrifice zone: demand is so high to view sunsets here–for 2+ million visitors annually–that heavy use and the associated vegetation & soil impacts are concentrated here to protect other, similarly fragile areas nearby. The use is concentrated onto naturally impact-resistant pink granite bedrock.

Ascending Cadillac Mountain Road ~1,500 ft to Blue Hill overlook at Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park.

Ascending Cadillac Mountain Road ~1500ft to Blue Hill Overlook (1m), note single vehicle we pass, parked on the downslope side of the road.  This is an overflow site also used for environmental interpretation, called a “wayside.”

(Audio volume warning): Ascending an entire mountain by road puts visitors to Blue Hill Overlook squarely in “frontcountry” category.
Some aspects of the visitor experience are deeply dependent on timing and weather.
(Audio volume warning): Mountain peaks are windy. This exposure is a visitor risk/safety factor (ushering in rapidly-changing weather conditions including lightning strikes) but also helps create the unique soundscapes of each peak.
Dr. Park acting like a Fellow Kid taking a selfie.  Ironically self-aware, probably. (1m)
(Audio volume warning) Observe the overwhelmingly common tendency to establish a minimum radius between visitors at vista sites. This pushes visitors onto vegetation & creates trampling impacts if left unmanaged.
As dusk transitions into night, observe the light (pollution in some cases) of nearby towns and other gateway communities such as Bar Harbor. The U.S. National Park Service has begun coordinating out beyond its borders with nearby landowners and business operators to help protect nighttime sky resources, such as the ability to see the Milky Way unaided.

Another view of a wayside built into the downslope side of Cadillac Mountain Road. If this were located on the upslope side, many visitors would be placed in harm’s way by the understandable temptation to cross the road for a better view.

One task of foresters, park rangers, and planners is to help identify normal motivations like this well in advance.

(Audio volume warning) Example of “God Rays,” or sunlight partially occluded/blocked by clouds on the horizon. The light becomes visible to us as these rays by hitting atmospheric particulate/dust/coastal marine salt aerosol. Foresters & park rangers cannot control the weather conditions that present these experiences, but we can set visitors up for maximum success and safety with thoughtful site design, flow management, onsite environmental interpretation, and maintenance onsite.

Example Vista Site: Sunset at Blue Hill Overlook & Cadillac Mountain Road, Cadillac Mountain summit, Mount Desert Island Unit, Acadia National Park, Maine, USNPS. 44.350428 N 68.2308993 W

Videos & Images: Logan Park 2018