MOUNT DESERT — A group of prominent year-round and summer residents has formed a nonprofit organization with the immediate goal of persuading the Board of Selectmen to prohibit any future cruise ship visits to Northeast Harbor.
The stated long-term goals are to promote economic development and attract new residents.
The selectmen, at their Nov. 7 meeting, are expected to consider the Marine Management Committee’s recommendation to impose a cruise ship ban.
That action was prompted by the Sept. 23 visit by the cruise ship Pearl Mist, which anchored off Bear Island. Its tenders delivered about 175 passengers to the Northeast Harbor marina, where some of them boarded Oli’s Trolley buses for tours of Acadia National Park.
Several downtown Northeast Harbor businesses reported especially brisk sales that day. But some lobster fishermen complained about the possible loss of gear. Some residents with views of Bear Island and the harbor complained that the cruise ship was an eyesore. And others said the influx of cruise ship passengers was incompatible with the character of Northeast Harbor.
American Cruise Lines, which arranged for the Pearl Mist’s visit, has tentatively scheduled 11 half-day visits to Northeast Harbor by a different ship next year.
The organization formed to lobby against allowing cruise ship visits is called the “Town of Mount Desert Economic Sustainability Initiative.” It is a private organization and is not affiliated with town government.
The organization is creating a website: mdesi.org. And it has taken out a full-page ad in this week’s Islander to urge citizens to support both the effort to ban cruise ships and the long-range goal of promoting the town’s economic revitalization.
“Cruise ships simply are not the answer to long-term economic development, but we recognize the legitimate concerns of our community and the need for sensible, sustainable economic stimulus,” the ad reads in part.
It says the group will focus on developing “affordable housing and mortgage assistance programs,” creating “renewal and growth opportunities” for downtown Northeast Harbor and attracting new businesses.
The ad was placed by a communications firm based in New York. It lists the names of about 20 year-round and summer residents who created the Economic Sustainability Initiative or support its efforts. They include David Jr. and Susan Rockefeller, Mitchell and Emily Rales, Steven and Lalage Rales, Story Litchfield and Katrina Carter.
Carter, who owns Carter’s Real Estate, said in an email to the Islander on Wednesday that the Economic Sustainability Initiative will be “a unique collaboration between year-round and summer residents who appreciate the magnitude of the economic challenges facing the community and are prepared to devote the necessary private capital” to achieve its goals.
She said the organization is in the process of hiring an executive director and “looks forward to working with other organizations and all members of the Mount Desert community to further these important goals while maintaining the special character of our community.”