To the Editor:
It’s early morning at breakfast at our Shore Path Cottage Bed and Breakfast. I am listening to our bitterly disappointed guests and taking notes, as the others nod in agreement. They’ve been rudely awakened before 7 a.m. by the loudspeaker from the 20-story-high ship obliterating the Porcupine Islands and billowing plumes of black smoke. Thousands of passengers are receiving instructions before disembarking for tenders ferrying them into town, resulting in a human avalanche.
When my guests, here to enjoy Acadia National Park, leave for the day, they will inch their way up Cadillac Mountain, circle endlessly for a parking space at Sand Beach and the Jordan Pond House, and return to town crammed like sardines on our sidewalks.
Duncan and Sallee Lorien of Boston requested I submit these unsolicited remarks.
“Bar Harbor has lost the magic we remembered” after honeymooning here 24 years ago, they said. “The town is unrecognizable … getting to Cadillac, we were stuck, hemmed in by buses, like a bad day in Manhattan. You are killing the goose that laid the golden egg. We felt like a statistic. We’re never coming again.”
The argument against a berthing terminal allowing for even more and bigger cruise ships seems like the proverbial “no brainer.” The proponents seem oblivious to our crowded sidewalks, traffic jams and the messages forewarning tourists about Bar Harbor.
From my understanding, cruise ship fees, amounting to $700,000-800,000, are designated specifically for cruise ship projects (e.g. the fancy signage directing bewildered passengers), unlike the $900,000 in real estate taxes from the combined prime properties on Eden, West, Bridge Streets and Harbor Lane, which benefit schools, and the many uses which define us as a self-sustaining community, concerned primarily with character and values rather than financial gain. Complaining that our real estate taxes are rising despite the cruise ships, I am told that they would be even higher without them.
Our land-based tourists, pushed and shoved and waiting in line are more inclined to escape Bar Harbor for lodging and stores on MDI’s Quietside.
Besides the smoke emissions, the crustaceans on the hulls of cruise ships arriving from warmer waters are ecologically detrimental to the marine life critical for our economy. What pollutants are poisoning our waters as these massive ships idle in the bay? Are we monitoring the waste generated by thousands of passengers?
I have been “reassured” by the specious argument that they are legally bound to dump far out at sea (as if garbage is stationary in water). What about the erosion resulting from so much foot traffic? It’s an example of cognitive dissonance that our fuel-efficient Island Explorers were donated by L.L. Bean precisely to diminish the vehicular traffic that is now exponentially exacerbated by huge tour buses.
The decision of the other MDI towns to refuse access to cruise ships is commendable and not surprising given the fact that “not like Bar Harbor” has become a mantra throughout Maine. Several years ago with the growing contrast between West St. and Main St., someone remarked that “Bar Harbor has always sold its soul.” The cruise ship issue is our chance to regain our self-respect as a community.
It is my understanding that the Maine Department of Transportation would sell the land for the proposed terminal to the town of Bar Harbor for $3.5 million, without conditions, $1 million more than the $2.5 million with conditions. $500,000 already has been pledged from an anonymous donor toward that amount, which would give the power to the people of Bar Harbor.
In support of this cause, I would happily donate the hefty advertising dues I pay to the chamber, which is conflicted on the issue of the berthing terminal.
After all, why bother advertising if land tourists like the Loriens don’t intend to return to Bar Harbor and become instead vocal purveyors of negative publicity?
I recall my children running to the window to watch the old Bluenose lit up like a birthday cake as it returned to Bar Harbor; those nostalgic days when none of us could have imagined the present situation are long gone. The cruise ships will be coming to Bar Harbor, but those of us who are privileged to live here must determine the balance between the public’s right of access to the park and our responsibility to monitor how many cruise ships, how big and when they arrive.
In memory of George Dorr, who died penniless in his fight to establish Acadia National Park, for the sake of this gem of nature we cherish for its unique and fragile beauty, and in recognition of our obligation to preserve its grandeur and accessibility for future generations, we must act as responsible stewards, or become the kind of place, where, as Yogi Berra quipped, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Shore Path Cottage