More than 50 participants attended the National Institute for Civil Discourse workshop last week at the Bar Harbor Club to discuss “Balancing Quality of Life and Tourism.” Part two of the workshop will be held on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Jackson Laboratory. PHOTO COURESY OF NINA ST. GERMAIN

Bar Harbor’s tipping point?

BAR HARBOR — When tourists come to Bar Harbor, they bring revenue for businesses, which in turn provide jobs. They also bring diversity, and their presence supports services like a hospital and schools, and amenities like restaurants and theaters, according to participants in a workshop last week on “Balancing Quality of Life and Tourism.”

When asked what factors make a good quality of life, 70 percent of participants voted on “access to nature and places to be active” as the most important. This was followed by having a “small town that is connected,” a year-round community, safety, and a high quality education.

The group identified the major challenges of balancing quality of life with tourism to be lack of housing (71 percent), transportation and traffic congestion (56 percent), and long-term sustainability of the community (38 percent).

Almost 30 percent of participants wondered if the town has reached its “tipping point” in its capacity to accommodate tourists.

About 55 residents attended the workshop, held Thursday at the Bar Harbor Club.

Hala Harick Hayes of the National Institute for Civil Discourse and resident Ron Beard co-presented the first workshop of a two-part series.

Harick Hayes first introduced participants to the concept of civil discourse, defining it as “a free and respectful exchange of different ideas” that allows people to “disagree without being disagreeable,” and without demonizing the other party.

Participants engaged in exercises to practice active listening, which is a necessary skill in civil discourse. They spent the rest of the evening in facilitated small-group discussions on balancing the quality of life with tourism.

According to Harik Hayes, the next part of the workshop will help participants “go deeper into solution-seeking discussions” on the challenges identified last week.

The workshop will be held on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. at the Jackson Laboratory. Harik Hayes encourages all to attend, and to “invite a friend or a neighbor.”

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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