To the Editor:

In facilitating a mutual understanding between Acadia National Park and the Aid Society of Otter Creek regarding the fish house on Otter Creek Cove, as reported on last week, the town of Mount Desert participation could provide an important learning opportunity for others seeking a resolution to difficult community problems. At this point in time, the parties want to negotiate a successful outcome without escalating the dispute any further or resorting to costly litigation. What should folks look for in the negotiation process, and how can the facilitator help?

It is essential that the parties listen carefully to each other. Being a neutral facilitator, the town can help to improve listening, both by reflecting and reframing what is said and by ensuring that everyone involved has the opportunity to be heard.

Questions linger about ownership and property rights. A facilitator can help the participants clarify the extent of what’s needed, whether it involves obtaining and sharing key documents, seeking expert advice or even determining who bears the costs.

Instead of making the claim “I’m right” and being indifferent to the consequences of “my win” means “you lose,” the parties to the fish house dispute can create a win-win. A facilitator serves this process by helping each party clarify what’s most important, encouraging creativity, testing reality and verifying that all parties are moving toward a mutual understanding based on being well-informed and exercising self-determination.

As well as focusing on any agreement that may emerge, people should consider what it was that will help get them there.

Peter Gorer

Somerville, Mass.


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