BAR HARBOR — After spending the last year trying to reduce cruise ships and passenger visits and not getting anywhere, the Town Council on Tuesday voted to move in a new direction. While the ship may have sailed on the town’s ability to regulate the industry in 2022, it has its sights set on 2023 and is poised to engage the industry and negotiate a way forward.
The council, at the request of Town Manager Kevin Sutherland, voted to form a committee of relevant stakeholders to address the 2023 season. Sutherland said that despite the best intentions of council members to limit cruise ships visits for the coming season, it appears too late to take any meaningful action.
Sutherland also said that he did not believe asking the town’s Cruise Ship Committee to continue to broker conversations between the town and the industry was “the best way to deal with it,” adding that the open forum was very public and confusing and doesn’t allow the opportunity for meaningful conversations.
Before voting to form the committee, council member Gary Friedmann tried once more to reduce passenger loads by offering a motion to reduce passenger visits by 30 percent. The motion failed with Friedmann as the lone vote in favor after other members of the council expressed concern that an affirmative vote would open them to a lawsuit – or at least an injunction – by the cruise ship industry.
Friedmann said that the community was growing tired of the council’s inaction and said, “it would be a disservice to our citizens to not try to do something about 2022.” He listed several efforts he made to do so over the last year, while other council members expressed frustration and decried the lack of progress made. However, all the council members agreed that action must be taken to curb passenger numbers for the 2023 season.
The council voted for Jill Goldthwait and Val Peacock to serve as members of the new committee, which will be created in the coming weeks. Sutherland says he plans to use the month of March to hold talks with the industry in order to find a solution.