To the Editor:
(A letter to the Town Council)
As a resident of Bar Harbor, I am voicing my concern with the influence ever-increasing cruise boat visitation has had on our town. I know Bar Harbor has long been considered a popular “tacky tourist town,” but I have always held that, within that veneer, those of us who live here year–round are deeply rooted in our community way beyond any passing T-shirt sale. I sense the quality of our town as a dynamic and varied community has been eroded by the increase in cruise boat visitation over the past decade, shifting itself more and more toward a cookie cutter cruise boat depot. I ask the council to take a fresh look at where we are as an economy right now before charging ahead as we have, accommodating more and more ships each year. Ideally, I would prefer we build our island economy without cruise boat visitation.
My stomach turns when I see photos of cruise boats dwarfing the Porcupines [islands], and when I hear about hotel guests disappointed that their ocean view is instead facing a floating skyscraper. Over the years, my family has generally avoided going to downtown Bar Harbor and numerous spots in Acadia National Park in the summer because we end up feeling lost in a sea of cruise boat passengers and businesses here to serve them. The town is unfamiliar. Individually, I welcome visitors and am proud to share our sweet island with tourists, but our little town was not made to welcome 3,000 people in a day, day after day. And though a number of businesses enjoy a flood of instant money, I fear the washout that follows is not worth it. I’d rather Bar Harbor continue to find sustainable ways to enhance business and the community at the same time instead of swapping one for the other.
This past year was an interesting case study on what a summer without cruise boats could look like. I hope the council reviews the “glass half full” opinions as much as the “glass half empty” chorus. Global pandemics are likely not going anywhere and the health risks associated with cruise boats are clear. Setting our economy up to depend on the cruise industry feels very risky. And, of course, the much larger and proven risk, not only to our town but also to our planet, is the environmental impact of cruise ships – the air pollution, the waste generated aboard the ships, the list goes on.
The irony can’t be lost on anyone – all these ships looking for harbors in the world’s most beautiful locations and then slowly eroding and changing them by their very presence. From a broad view, it makes me sad to consider the desperation and greed that would drive such a thing. I strongly encourage the council to please consider other options to allow us to share this beautiful place with visitors that do not come with such a detrimental and multi-faceted environmental and community impact.