(From left) Select Board members Chad Terry, Alan Willey, Carolyn Ball, Danny Norwood and George Jellison vote to discontinue ferry service from the Upper Town Dock while Town Manager Marilyn Lowell and Town Clerk Jennifer LaHaye look on. ISLANDER PHOTO BY NINAH GILE

Town ousts ferry service

SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Beginning this summer, Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines’ Cranberry Cove Ferry Service will no longer be able to use the Upper Town Dock as a stop for passengers who travel to the Cranberry Isles. 

The Harbor Committee recommended that the town no longer allow ferry permits to be issued, a move that was unanimously approved last week by the Select Board. 

Captain Steve Pagels, owner of Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, said that this decision will cause a drastic drop in revenue for his ferry considering that 85 percent of it comes from the Upper Town Dock. “Southwest Harbor will also lose a public transportation infrastructure and economic contributor,” Pagels said. 

Barbara Meyers, who lives on Great Cranberry, said Cranberry Cove’s 75-year ferry stop on the Clark Point Road is the only port that provides both visitors and residents a short walk to downtown Southwest Harbor.  

“Sure, the ferry does stop in Northeast [Harbor], but why would you send those people to another town instead of having them go to your drug store, your gas stations, your restaurants, your hotels? Some of us have jobs on MDI,” Meyers said. 

At a recent public hearing, Ruth Davis, the Southwest Harbor and Tremont Chamber of Commerce president, urged the Select Board to allow the ferry to continue its operations. 

“The Cranberry Cove [ferry] is utilized by hundreds of visitors to the quiet side of Mount Desert Island each season,” Davis said. 

In Manset Village, the town of Cranberry Isles owns a 101-space parking lot for property owners on Great and Little Cranberry and Sutton islands. “We have a few extra parking spaces [in Manset] for day use,” said James “Jim” Fortune of Islesford. “Last year, a couple of days those were full and a number of spaces are leased to specific households on the Cranberry Isles so they are not available for day-trip parking.”  

With the removal of the Upper Town Dock ferry stop, passengers without transportation will have to walk about 1.5 miles to get to downtown Southwest Harbor from Manset. 

The Harbor Committee said it is looking at making improvements at the harbor facility, which they believe does not involve Cranberry Cove renting their dock. Harbormaster Oliver Curry said the town aims to provide more parking at Upper Town Dock for cars and boats for its local community, and believes the lot becomes too full due to ferry-driven usage.  

“Our plans are to provide the best facilities we can to as many people, especially those who are taxpaying harbor users, mooring renters and individuals,” Curry said. 

“I have a really open mind, but I find it difficult that they [Downeast Windjammer Cruises] are tying up three floats, basically from June until September from 7:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. by the way it’s configured right now,” said Select Board Chair George Jellison during a Jan. 11 public hearing. 

According to the town’s coastal waters and harbor ordinance, the “ferry service on a regular schedule may be permitted with approval from the Select Board. In order for the ferry service to continue operating on a regular schedule at the Upper Town Dock, a seasonal fee will be assessed and paid prior to its use.” 

In the meantime, the Cranberry Cove ferry will need to find another space to port before July. Pagels said recently that there is an option for him to rent ferry space at Dysart’s Great Harbor Marina in Southwest Harbor. 

The orginal version of this story misrepresented the month the ferry service would need to find another space. It also misidentified teh owner of a parking lot in Manset. It has since been updated. 


Ninah Rein

Ninah Rein

Writer at Mount Desert Islander
Ninah Rein, an MDI native, covers the town of Bar Harbor. She is glad to be back in Maine after earning a bachelor's degree in San Diego from the University of California.

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