BAR HARBOR — Steve Pagels, who has operated a seasonal ferry service between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor for the past 15 years, has significantly lowered his fares for this season in response to new competition.
Last year, a round-trip ticket cost $32 for adults and $22 for children. This year, it’s $24 and $14.
Frenchman Bay Research Boating, which is starting the competing Schoodic Ferry service, is charging $25 for a round trip regardless of passenger age.
Both ferry services started running last weekend and plan to continue through Columbus Day weekend.
Pagels’ service is called Bar Harbor Ferry. It is charging Maine residents, those with a state driver’s license, $15 for a round trip. The Schoodic Ferry’s Maine resident rate is $17.50. Maine residents can buy a package of 10 round-trip tickets for $150.
Bar Harbor Ferry is offering a round-trip family package rate of $75 for immediate family members traveling together.
“We’ve had people say it’s difficult to afford with a number of children, so we’re experimenting with the family package,” Pagels said.
Last year, Bar Harbor Ferry charged $7 per bicycle. This year, there is no bicycle rate on the fare schedule.
“We’re initially leaving that off to just see how it goes,” Pagels said.
Pagels is promoting the lower fares as “centennial pricing,” tying it in with Acadia National Park’s centennial celebration. He said he is counting on increased volume to make up for the reduced fares.
In fact, both ferry services are looking to the new Schoodic Woods Campground, which opened last September, to generate quite a bit of ridership. The campground has 50 campsites for tents and small campers, 33 RV sites, nine hike-to sites and two group camping sites that accommodate about 25 people each. Schoodic Woods opened for the season May 25 and is to be open until Oct. 10.
Adding to the financial challenges posed by competition and lower fares, Pagels said, is a 50 percent hike in the docking fee for ferries at the Schoodic Marine Center in Winter Harbor. Formerly the Winter Harbor Marina, the Schoodic Institute has signed a 20-year lease for the facility. Pagels said he has been paying a docking fee of $14,000 per ferry season. This year, that is increasing to $21,000.
Sheridan Steele, who retired last fall as superintendent of Acadia, is serving in a volunteer capacity as executive director of the Schoodic Marine Center. He said in an email that the main reason for the increase in the ferry docking fee is that the ferry season has lengthened “to match the campground.”
“There also will be more landings per day on most days,” he said.
Pagels said that in several meetings over the past few years, Steele and other Acadia officials urged him to lower his fares as a way to encourage more people to travel between the Mount Desert Island and Schoodic Peninsula sections of the park.
“The high dock rate is certainly counter to all discussions that have gone on previously about promoting ferry service over there,” he said. “It is not ferry-friendly by any stretch of the imagination.”
Bar Harbor Ferry has scheduled five round trips a day through Labor Day and four after that. Schoodic Ferry also plans five daily round trips, plus an evening trip on Tuesdays and Saturdays from June 27 to Sept. 5.
The Schoodic Ferry docks in Bar Harbor at the pier at College of the Atlantic. The Bar Harbor Ferry docks at the Bar Harbor Inn pier.