Community forum: A plea for Main Street

By Durlin Lunt

I write not as the town manager of Mount Desert but as a lifelong resident unburdened by the fear of losing my employment, unafraid of offending the wrong parties and blessed with the freedom to comment on the realities as I view them from a perspective dating back to the years immediately following the Second World War.

I suspect that there are others who share my view, particularly some in the business community who withhold their endorsement in fear of economic retaliation. For them, I hope to give voice as well.

We may live in Otter Creek.

We may live in Seal Harbor.

We may live in Northeast Harbor.

We may live in Sound Village.

We may live in Somesville.

We may live in Hall Quarry.

We may live in Beech Hill.

We may live in Pretty Marsh.

We may live in these villages, but we are residents of Mount Desert.

As I progress deeper into my eighth decade, I have become increasingly concerned about the future of my beloved community. One thing that I think needs to be emphasized is that it is time that Mount Desert truly becomes a town and not a loose conglomeration of warring, jealous tribes scattered around the periphery of our political borders. This lack of cohesion has prevented our town from reaching its true potential not just in my lifetime, but for generations preceding us. It is well past the time for this village discord to cease. Over the years, we have undertaken a number of improvement projects that have enhanced the character and quality of our entire community.

For example, the town dump was closed and a beautiful park and picnic area was created. Enhancements to the Seal Harbor Beach and landing area in the form of excellent bathroom facilities were undertaken. A playground was created in Otter Creek at the site of the former elementary school. A major investment was made at Pond’s End in Somesville-Pretty Marsh.

Our inefficient harbor was dredged in the 1950s and, over the years, has evolved into one of the finest facilities on the Eastern Seaboard. The area where the Town Office sits was once a very unattractive sand and salt pile. We approved a bond issue to bring high speed internet to the western side of Mount Desert.

I am sure that there have been a number of other projects that don’t immediately come to mind, but it is now time for the “ugly duckling” known as Main Street in Northeast Harbor to be transformed into a swan.

It is the commercial center for the town of Mount Desert, and in its current state, it is a disgrace. It was built in the 19th century and neglected during the 20th. Now, with nearly 20 percent of the current century passed, we have the opportunity for a once-in-a-generation transformation, provided we are not blind to the opportunity before us.

We have a treasured past, an unsatisfactory present and an uncertain future. What will we look like two years from now? If Main Street in Northeast Harbor stays in its current state, then we will know whether our community views itself as a vital vibrant community or a stagnant backwater content to glory in its past and perhaps the faint hope that organizations such as Mount Desert 365 will save us from ourselves.

Durlin E. Lunt is a lifelong resident of the town of Mount Desert.

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