By Alf Anderson
At its April 19 meeting, the Bar Harbor Town Council and town manager publicly announced that they would be focusing their energy on three core subject areas in the coming months. We at the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce were pleased to see this announcement and aim to support the town’s efforts to address these extremely important topics.
Infrastructure, housing and tourism capacity. These are the areas that will receive priority attention from the council and town staff for the foreseeable future. The Chamber is already involved in helping to move these issues forward and remains committed to supporting the town in achieving success.
Infrastructure projects, including sewer and stormwater treatment and roadway improvements, are of a rather urgent need. Businesses in downtown Bar Harbor will benefit from the improvements that are being planned, which is why the Chamber has been working with town staff to identify creative ways to fund the projects and decrease the expected burden on water and sewer ratepayers and taxpayers as a whole.
Housing is of the utmost importance to the town’s residents and business owners, as I detailed in my Viewpoint published in the Islander on March 31. I don’t think it is hyperbolic to say that solving our housing challenges will be the key to success for all the towns and people of Mount Desert Island. Whether you measure success as having ample affordable housing for our public safety officers and young, working families or meeting the demand of seasonal workforce housing, the housing needs of our community are great and complex. The Chamber remains committed to helping to resolve this issue.
Tourism capacity is a complicated issue and will likely mean something different to each of us. We at the Bar Harbor Chamber view this issue as the need to better manage our visitation. Finding ways to alleviate the congestion felt in the downtown village by moving guests and their vehicles in a more efficient manner. Making it easier and more enticing for all of us (visitors and residents, alike) to leave our cars behind and make the trip to downtown Bar Harbor by bicycle, on foot or via public transportation. Implementing creative measures that ensure everyone, whether you are a lifelong resident or a first-time visitor, has a great experience.
Maine’s seasonality presents tourism-related opportunities and challenges for our community and its businesses. Summer has long been the in-demand season for travelers and fall has more recently gained in popularity. For our community, there is capacity for tourism in our winter and spring months. Increasing visitation in these colder months could entice more businesses to remain open and thereby make Bar Harbor and Mount Desert Island a more robust year-round community. The Chamber is not suggesting that January would or should feel like July. We’re suggesting that we capitalize on our economy’s number one driver, tourism, as a logical and good first step in expanding our year-round community. Other avenues for commerce should be explored as well.
The Chamber, among other things, strives to provide a great experience for all who are here. I am convinced that if we all work together to address the acute challenges facing our community, we will make Bar Harbor a better place for residents, visitors, businesses and all who choose to come here.
Alf Anderson is the Executive Director of the Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce.