To the Editor:
In 2016, Bar Harbor welcomed 117 cruise ships to port, with 163,000 passengers and 69,000 crewmembers. Last year broke records for visitation of all forms, and we rubbed up against an upper limit where quality of experience suffered. Developing the Route 3 ferry terminal into a facility for mega cruise ships berthing at a half-mile pier would flood the island with tens of thousands of additional passengers a year and severely threaten the character of Bar Harbor.
The argument to move the cruise ships to a terminal rests on an industry trend toward much larger cruise ships that will refuse or be unable to be tendered.
As cruise ships are likely to be an element on our tourism palette for some time, we first need to recognize that Mount Desert Island is one of the most beautiful, well-liked cruise ship destinations on the entire east coast of North America. Then, we should understand that we hold the reins and need to have the courage to tell the cruise ship industry about our expectations, not the other way around.
We are at something of a point of no return in terms of the character of our island, and a cruise ship terminal and concomitant fleet of behemoth cruise ships would without a doubt push us beyond that point. The cruise ship market is always evolving. Yes, some companies are moving to enormous flotillas, with as many passengers as possible. Others are moving toward smaller ships focused on the quality of the experience, underscoring environmental sustainability, serving destinations that emphasize tranquility and catering to guests with more spending capacity. Let’s cater to the latter, increase the cost-per-person fee and be sure that those fees continue to support the infrastructure needs of the year-round community and the passengers.
The Route 3 ferry terminal property holds enormous potential. The possibilities are endless as a working waterfront to support the fishing community, for education and research, for small-scale visiting ships, as a museum or aquarium, for ferries to Schoodic or other destinations in the Gulf of Maine, for parking and for countless other activities.
Any one of these projects would require time, funding, creativity and collaboration among the for-profit, nonprofit and government entities on Mount Desert Island. That time, funding, creativity and collaborative potential is here, there is no doubt in my mind. Now that the state of Maine owns the property, let’s come together to put forth an idea other than the docking of enormous cruise ships at a half-mile pier and emphasize the dreams and ideals of the year-round community in Bar Harbor and on MDI.
Let’s work together to build on the strengths of our community – a best-in-class destination for visitors dedicated to quality over quantity and dedicated to the social, ecological and economic vitality of the year-round community.
Darron Collins, President
College of the Atlantic