To the Editor:
Bar Harbor shares an overarching phenomenon with many coastal towns in the northeastern United States of America. We are getting older.
Our demographic is shifting toward older retired people and away from young people who seek development and industry. If you are older and retired, this may seem perfectly acceptable. Decisions you make as a voter would logically promote the creation of an environment that supports those things that you believe are important for you and your fellow citizens. If smooth roads, a quiet neighborhood, good police and fire protection, and limited increase in expenses are important to you, any money spent on development might seem frivolous.
Some 18 percent of the population of any average town or city in this country is made up of school-aged children, or 5-to-18 year olds. The number for the state of Maine is around 19 percent according to the 2014 census numbers.
A simple count shows Bar Harbor at about 10 percent right now, though it was nearly at 18 percent when my kids started school here in the early 1990s. When I graphed out the school aged population here between 1992 and the present, what I got was a line that, with the exception of a small bump 10 years ago, goes steadily from upper left to lower right.
The result was interesting. But it worried me when I concluded that if this were true, we must be draining away people between the ages of 25 and 40, those folks being the demographic where kids come from. Some may argue that people are having fewer kids in general, but the state seems to be keeping up with the rest of the country; so far, not Bar Harbor.
So, the question seems to me to be do we want to become a retirement village going forward, or would we prefer to try and keep a town with a diverse demographic?
Most of the work necessary for achieving the former has been in place for years and strengthens with votes like those cast in the Warrant Committee last week. The only two things in the budget that promoted development were voted out.
Our LUO is and has always been designed to keep things as they were in 1985. So building affordable housing is extremely difficult. Recent efforts to try and make the LUO an instrument that we could use to promote development have crashed and burned. If we don’t provide a place where they can live and a means to make a living, we will continue to see our children leave the town and leave the state. Young people from other parts of the country will not move to Bar Harbor to make a home where they can raise kids.
I’m reminded of the story of the old man and the boy on a Saturday morning. The boy asks the old man if he wants to go fishing. He responds that he might be able to after lunch, but that he had some apple trees that needed to be planted first. Would the boy like to help plant the trees? The boy exclaims that he sees little point in the old man planting apple trees in the first place. It would be years before the man could enjoy any apples from the tree, and that he may not live that long anyway. The old man responds “Then we’d better get started right away.”