Officials in Southwest Harbor are considering various options for land purchases to provide greater access to the harbor proper for commercial and recreational activities.
The town currently has a waiting list of 90 folks who would like to place moorings in the harbor. With the right tweaks to the town’s mooring plan, most of those users could be accommodated. The primary stumbling block is lack of vehicle parking space near existing town-owned wharf facilities.
While tourism is an important component of the economic lifeblood of any coastal Maine town, ensuring measured growth in the use of the harbor by maritime interests is equally vital. The economic activity that could be generated for local merchants, hotels, fuel dealers and marine supply firms, with nearly 100 more boats tied up locally cannot be overstated.
Certainly the cost of purchasing additional properties will be substantial. However, a modest system of parking permits or, if plans allow, reserved spaces, could help recoup that investment at a faster rate, in turn requiring less of a financial commitment by taxpayers.
Over the past eight years, real estate values on Mount Desert Island have remained relatively flat, with sales volume lower than the go-go days prior to 2008.
But that appears to be changing. Local agents report prices are edging up as activity increases. There may be little time to waste if Southwest Harbor is serious about acquiring more land adjacent to the harbor.
No coastal town in memory has gone wrong by investing in property or facilities to protect and expand its maritime heritage. Town officials are right in considering proposed purchases, as expeditiously as possible, to take public access and economic vitality to the next level.