To the Editor: A zero baseline 



To the Editor: 

I join the many, many people in Bar Harbor who are disappointed that town officials were unable to act on the results of the citizen survey calling for a re-examination of what is an appropriate level of cruise ship visitation in time for the 2022 season. The council has its reasons and, unfortunately it is too late to fairly make any changes for this year. 

However, I would argue that the town has been approaching the resolution of this issue backwards. 

Right now, the dynamic is that if the town does nothing, the cruise ship companies that have literally “bellied up to the bar,” by claiming dates years in advance (notice I refuse to call them “reservations”) continue to imbibe as much and as long as they like. Visit requests reach out five years or more. Natural institutional and governmental inertia gives them a huge advantage. 

The main action the council should take immediately is to declare all future reservation requests for 2023 and beyond be deleted. Let’s start from scratch rather that talk about “cuts.” The baseline we are working from should not be 200 or more visits. It should be zero.  

That then gives the town time to decide how many ships to schedule and to develop strategies on how that will be done. Bidding for prime dates, blocking out some “no ship” days and rest can be worked out. 

That the puts the pressure on the industry to help come up with workable solutions or they are the ones left unfulfilled – not the people of Bar Harbor. 

I am not a rabid anti-cruise ship bomb thrower. I have never advocated for banning all cruise ship visits. I continue to believe there is a happy medium. As many downtown merchants discovered this last year, when there were no ships, they can still end the season with robust, if not record-setting, bottom lines. 

Reducing bus congestion on the town pier and using less visible anchorages will help too. And, having the town manager, who reports directly to the council, negotiate is a good next step. But let’s flip the approach and come at this from a position that puts our community priorities first. 

Earl Brechlin 

Bar Harbor 

 

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