BAR HARBOR — Leaders of each of four groups examining potential uses of the former international ferry terminal property on Eden Street submitted progress reports this week. The Bar Harbor ferry terminal property advisory committee and its subcommittees were appointed by the Town Council earlier this fall. See barharbormaine.gov for committee contact information and meeting schedules.
Berthing with pier
This subcommittee has been studying elements of the 2012 study produced for the town on this topic; discussing the possible size of a renovated pier to serve one or two cruise ships; exploring complex issues such as environmental concerns; passenger safety; reducing town pier congestion; considering the cruise optimal experience of passengers, land-based tourists, residents, and the park and its visitors.
An efficient and practical transportation plan is crucial for the public and merchants in town. Questions and concerns include: How would we move passengers back and forth to town or to Acadia National Park? What about parking for land-based tourists and employees?
The group is fact-checking various opinions about these issues and whether it’s likely that the visitation cap will increase or remain as is. They are researching security restrictions when ships are at the pier and the impact on public access to the pier area, and accommodations for other commercial and recreational boats.
A “matrix” process is being used. The matrix is a list of diverse values that might improve or threaten local and regional community quality of life, environmental protection and economic impacts, among other concerns.
Another work session is planned to discuss and rank the merits or shortcomings of a berthing pier development.
The marine use subcommittee is looking at redeveloping the ferry terminal site as a beautiful, environmentally-friendly marina for residents and visitors.
A full-service marina would include water, fuel, Wi-Fi, showers, parking and other services for recreational and small commercial users.
For residents, this means one could launch a boat from the new boat ramp and tie up at a float or mooring.
A breakwater, creating boat trailer parking, kayak storage and launch space, and providing dock space for small commercial boat tours and sailboats also are being considered.
Other ideas members have been asked to include are an information booth, ticket counter for commercial boats, a fishing and Frenchman Bay educational display and green space. Parking and a transportation hub for buses also are on the list.
The group has not added retail/restaurant space to the list, to avoid competing with town businesses. Thoughtfully landscaped and planned in cooperation with the harbormaster, the property can be efficient as well as inviting, a peaceful place for residents to enjoy water access and the views across the bay and into town.
The other use subcommittee began their process by exploring some nonmarine options for the ferry terminal such as an aquarium or waterfront concert pavilion.
Committee members have contacted the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, A Climate to Thrive and the management of the Bangor and Portland Waterfronts.
Many committee members and townspeople feel strongly that it is critical that the property be purchased to preserve access to the water and that a nonmarine use could supplement a marine use, but not be the sole use of the property.
The nonmarine uses have focused primarily on a welcome center or museum as well as parking and a transportation hub.
The subcommittee produced a report detailing the extent of environmental remediation needed at the property. Research is underway on the impact of purchasing the property for $3.5 million versus letting the property go into private ownership.
This committee supports purchasing the property for $3.5 million, which removes the time pressure to present a completed business plan and provides additional time to establish funding of environmental remediation and demolition of existing structures that doesn’t overburden the taxpayers.
The tendering subcommittee is considering various strategies for accommodating cruise ship tenders at the ferry terminal property. All are designed to free up downtown parking and remove tour bus congestion at the town pier and Agamont Park.
The first, sending all tenders to the ferry terminal, does not appear to be a realistic option. The town does not appear to have the authority to require this activity to move to a town-owned location.
A second strategy would be for ships in Anchorage A to tender to town and ships in Anchorage B to tender to the ferry terminal. Cruise ship passengers who arrive in town would use a tram to access tour buses that stage at the ferry terminal. However, the town does not appear to have the authority to require ships in Anchorage B to tender to the ferry terminal site.
Third, the committee considered ferry terminal tendering for ships that operate their own tenders (suggested by the marine use subcommittee) — Ships in Anchorage B who operate their own tenders may prefer to use a tender dock at the ferry terminal site. The marina proposed by the marine use group could include floats designed to accommodate cruise ship tenders. Ships that choose to tender to the marina would pay landing fees to the town.
Finally, it may be possible to send all tenders to town but have bus tours staged from the ferry terminal. This approach would eliminate tour bus congestion, while allowing all cruise ship passengers to continue walking into downtown without riding a tram. Since this approach does not involve tendering at the ferry terminal site, it was referred to the marine uses subcommittee.
All of these strategies involve removing tour bus staging from town-owned parking spaces. All require implementation of a tram service that would include an in-town tram stop at Harborview Park.