BAR HARBOR — The consultant hired by the town to study the deteriorating former state ferry terminal laid out three concept-level designs for a new marina at the Eden Street site and said doing work on the north pier – where the CAT ferry berths – in the near future would be a “reasonable approach.”
All the concepts from GEI Consultants involved the long-term demolition of the north pier and replacing it with dolphins (the structure, not the marine mammal).
“I would agree that the idea of getting started on the north pier demolition and replacing it with the dolphins as soon as possible would be a smart thing to do,” said Dan Bannon, a senior project manager at GEI.
The suggestion came during a workshop on the future of the ferry terminal between the Town Council and the Harbor Committee. Earlier this year, the committee recommended demolishing the pier instead of fixing it, and building a new marina.
Several pilings are in “critical” condition and the surface has little to no live load capacity.
Bannon also brought up potential short-term fixes for different portions of the structure but said if the town was planning on replacing the north pier it might as well go straight to creating a plan for demolition and replacement instead of pouring money into repairs.
In addition to replacing the north pier, the three concepts all demolished at least part of the south pier. They also include installing floating docks, several slips and berths, gangway access, a boat ramp and potentially a fixed pier. All were centered around the existing causeways.
These installations could provide new waterfront access and possibly become a new revenue stream for the town.
Though no votes or official actions occurred, the council seems to be on board with demolishing the aging facility, though exact details of what would be done in the future still need to be hashed out. Part of that discussion will likely revolve around how the town decides to move forward with cruise ships and if tendering would take place at the potential new marina.
The former ferry terminal was built in 1956 and was designed specifically for the Bluenose ferry, which is no longer in service. The obsolete design currently consists of two causeways, a north pier, a south pier, two steel vehicle bridges between the piers and a dilapidated building that is a remnant of the former ferry service use. Bay Ferries, which runs the CAT between Bar Harbor and Nova Scotia, also owns a roll-on/roll-off transfer bridge, a steel pontoon barge and pile dolphins extending from the north causeway.
Bannon showed pictures of pilings with gaping holes in them, exposed rebar and other issues at the terminal site.
“I don’t think there’s any benefit to saving the structure,” said council member Matthew Hochman, though he did want to see some of the south pier preserved.
All the marina concepts carried a rough price estimate of about $14 million.
Council member Erin Cough advocated for doing the north pier work, saying it was an easy place to start, no matter what the plan is for the rest of the facility.
“I think a priority should be making sure that the CAT is taken care of,” she said.
Bay Ferries had planned to return to service in 2020, but those hopes were dashed by the pandemic. Now the ferry is expected to come back next spring.
In a letter to town officials Tuesday, Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald reaffirmed the company’s “long-term interest in working with the Town to provide ferry service to Nova Scotia and a long-term stable source of revenue to the Town.”
This commitment on paper has been backed up by the company’s recent $10 million upgrade to the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, terminal, as well as two major projects to its vessel.
“We thank the Town for its patience and understanding through all of this and look forward to working with you to assist the Town in realizing the potential of the ferry terminal property,” MacDonald wrote.
Until any repairs or new construction on the north pier occur, Bannon suggested that the CAT run with a maximum berthing velocity of 1 knot and berth only when wind speeds were under 30 mph.
The ferry could sail under those and other service restrictions next year while the town works on design and permitting, with the potential to move forward once the 2022 ferry season ends.
To get there, the town must make some decision on what it wants for the site.
Council member Gary Friedmann was all for officially taking an affirmative stance on demolition and said it seems like the town just needs to come up with the sequence of events to bring the property back up to snuff.
“Let’s start on the design process for this as soon as possible,” he said.