Parking, tour bus options

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Officials are discussing what can be done to improve access to parking downtown and how to make room for tour buses to unload passengers. Proposals range from creating a parking map for visitors to eliminating parking on one side of Main Street altogether.

Nearly six months after being asked to create a comprehensive parking and traffic study, Town Manager Justin VanDongen presented an initial proposal and goals at the select board meeting Tuesday. The proposal includes short range, mid-range and long term goals to address the town’s parking and traffic problems.

“We want to make sure that we’re not hindering our business activity,” VanDongen said.

Options ranged from the creation of a web map of municipal parking areas for visitors to creating a satellite parking lot on the fire station property for bicycle riders to use as a park and ride facility.

“I love the map thing,” said Selectman Kristin Hutchins. “It communicates that we are concerned about [how to accommodate] people coming into town.”

Selectman Ryan Donahue suggested the web map be easily accessible on the town’s website for people visiting to open and use.

“When you do all of this, will you address where the handicap spots are?” Asked resident Ann Napier who offered to support the town in making sure people with disabilities and limited mobility can maneuver easily throughout downtown.

“Please don’t eliminate any handicap parking spots,” she said.

Short range goals in the proposal, meant to be addressed in the next year, included increasing use of existing municipal parking lots, increasing turnover of street parking spaces, improving the understanding of parking users and improving public perception of parking availability.

Mid-range goals, to be addressed in the next two to three years, included improving traffic flow downtown, increasing the number and availability of parking spaces downtown and improving the use and look of the horseshoe parking area in front of Pemetic Elementary School.

“Main Street, there’s nothing in essence that we can do,” said Donahue. “Maybe you have a solution for that?”

VanDongen said he had come up with an option that may not be popular at first that includes eliminating parking on one side of Main Street and limiting remaining spaces to 30-minute parking. That idea was part of the long-range goals, not to be addressed until 2022, and after developing additional parking in downtown, including an area for tour buses to unload and park.

During the August 2018 conversation in which selectmen asked VanDongen to come up with a comprehensive plan, the increased number of tour buses coming to town was a major concern.

“As frustrated as I got with tour buses this summer, the only people who got more frustrated then me were tour bus operators,” he said.

Selectmen attempted to hash out several aspects of the parking and traffic goals until Goetze insisted the subject be put on a future agenda for more discussion.

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley covers the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands. Send story ideas and information to

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