BAR HARBOR — “It’s on my mind all the time,” College of the Atlantic President Darron Collins said Monday about development options for the former international ferry terminal here. Of his decision to speak up opposing a cruise ship pier in Bar Harbor at a Town Council meeting last week, he said “I just thought it made sense [that day], and it was nothing larger or strategic.”
Collins has been a member of the Cruise Ship Committee for about a year, and he also served on the pier with berthing subcommittee of the ferry terminal property advisory committee.
“A cruise ship berthing pier at 121 Eden St. will make it enormously difficult for me as president to run that institution successfully,” Collins told the Town Council Feb. 6. “Enormous vessels docked right in our front yard will destroy our 38 acre campus.”
College of the Atlantic (COA) is less than half a mile away from the abandoned ferry terminal property where future development is being considered.
Council Chair Paul Paradis asked if Collins was speaking as a private citizen or as a representative of the college. “It’s impossible for me to take off my hat,” Collins said. “If it would be helpful for these words to come with the endorsement of the College of the Atlantic trustees, I could certainly do that. Right now, this is coming from me as the one who manages” the college.
On Monday, he added, “I wear the hat as a president and as a resident of Bar Harbor and I certainly have an opinion as president and an opinion as a resident of Bar Harbor, but that’s different than than having an institutional perspective or an institutional position.”
Collins said he has not approached the trustees, and he has not heard from any of them about his comments at the meeting.
“[COA] would want to talk about this as a community first in the all-college meeting and then bring it to the trustees,” he said. “A lot depends on whether the community thinks it’s an appropriate discussion to have as an institution.”
Students from COA were in attendance at the meeting, but Collins said that they were attending the meeting for a class rather than to support his position. He said that he did not know that students were going to be there until he arrived.
Collins said when prospective students apply to COA, they often mention the natural beauty of Mount Desert Island.
“The reasons that draw millions of people to the island are some of the same reasons that draws people to this school,” he told the council. “Place is an important driver that brings people here.”
During the meeting, Collins said COA would like to work with the town to find the best use for the property.
On Monday, he said he remains excited about the prospect of a multi-use marina at the property, as recommended by the ferry terminal property advisory committee. He said the college could look to use the facility for academic work and projects.
“I think that would be a great platform for collaboration between the college and the town,” he said.
UPDATE: This story has been updated with additional material about Collins’ response to the question of whether he was speaking at the council meeting as a representative of the college.