To the Editor:
At a regular meeting on May 11, the Southwest Harbor Select Board, by a 3-2 vote, reversed an earlier unanimous decision to place an article on the annual meeting warrant asking for voter support to pursue a grant opportunity to acquire land adjacent to Chris’s Pond for its preservation and to improve access.
Chris’s Pond, as neighbors and families in Southwest Harbor know, has been not only an historical asset (see Bernice Klausky’s lovely remembrance in the May edition of the Southwest Harbor Historical Society’s newsletter) but also a longtime recreational resource, especially in winter, for families and children who enjoy skating.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust has been a partner in the pursuit of this opportunity and to date has spent $14,000 on an option to acquire the land for a future donation to the town and for the purposes of improving access and parking for the users of Chris’s Pond.
At a regular Southwest Harbor Select Board meeting (Feb. 9), MCHT’s Misha Mytar outlined a draft of the project and the board unanimously approved a direction to the town manager to pursue the grant opportunity. Items supporting the project at the Feb. 9 meeting included a cover letter from MCHT and one from Marla O’Bryne, president of Island Housing Trust. Most significantly, the packet included 22 individual letters of support for the project from members of the community who are or who have been users of Chris’s Pond.
The change in sentiment of the Select Board is difficult to account for. Jellison suggested that given the controversy around a recent parking lot permit, this new 10-space lot might not be agreeable to the abutters. On the strength of this argument, Willey and Terry reversed their previous positions and chose against inviting the voters of Southwest Harbor to have their say.
This spectacle is disappointing in terms of public process. It is furthermore an insult to the many hours devoted by so many members of the community to the project.
And, it is an opportunity missed.