More than 50 people attended last week's workshop on “Balancing Quality of Life and Tourism," held at The Jackson Laboratory. ISLANDER PHOTO BY BECKY PRITCHARD

Housing, congestion top agenda

BAR HARBOR — Housing, congestion, and long-term sustainability were among the topics discussed at a community workshop last Thursday at The Jackson Laboratory, facilitated by the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) and its local affiliate, Maine Revives Civility.

More than 50 people attended the second in a two-part workshop called “Balancing Quality of Life and Tourism.”

The agenda included exercises in active listening, led by Mark Hews of Maine Revives Civility. Participants paired up and took turns speaking and listening on various practice topics.

Exercises were followed by facilitated table discussions on issues facing the town. Housing topped the list of discussion items that had been identified in the previous Oct. 17 workshop as the most important challenges to address concerning Bar Harbor’s future.

The results from the table discussions will be compiled by workshop facilitator Hala Harik Hayes, and presented by Nina St. Germain. at a December town council meeting.

St. Germain said the next step is likely to “have a public discussion around housing.” The discussion will be facilitated like the workshops were.

“We are learning what [civil discourse] is and what a useful tool it can be,” she said. “What worked well was they were highly structured meetings.”

St. Germain was also encouraged by the interest shown in the workshops by new participants. “It was fantastic to have a group of people together that are not [all] on boards and committees,” she said. “It was a lot of fresh faces and new ideas.”

The workshops have been a collaboration between the town of Bar Harbor and the NICD, a non-partisan organization whose mission is to revive civility in government and communities, according to their website.

St. Germain said NICD contacted the town to offer the workshops, because they “recognized that we had been doing this work” to increase communication and promote healthy public discussion.

The communication and facility project was first proposed by St. Germain and fellow resident Ron Beard in February 2017. Initial meetings and a community survey resulted in St. Germain being hired by the town as part-time Engagement Coordinator, new ground rules for discussion at public meetings and regular use of the online polling platform Polco.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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