The state of Maine’s decision to enter into a lease for the former Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal property on Eden Street in Bar Harbor for three years, and the Department of Transportation’s willingness to pay the $1 million cost, is welcome news on the economic sustainability front.
As town after town in Maine has discovered, once vital access to the ocean is lost, or chances to acquire additional shorefront are squandered, such opportunities seldom come around again.
For more than 60 years, the former Bluenose ferry terminal has been a vital link, not only between the land and the sea, but also between two countries. Over those decades, the level or schedule of service frequently changed, but the benefits of having a veritable front door to the rest of the world remained. Should the ferry terminal land here eventually be sold to a private developer, there is little to no chance it would ever be available for public purposes again.
Chances are, whether through adaptation to also handle cruise ships or with the eventual resumption of ferry service to Canada, the property can continue to serve the town, the island and the entire region in a vital way.
It would not be surprising if the Canadian government would be willing to reduce the final sale price in return for a proviso that accommodation be made for the eventual return of ferry service should the less-than-successful experiment with running to Portland eventually cease.
While the appropriate level of cruise ship activity remains the subject of robust debate, a recent survey of Bar Harbor residents showed that more than two-thirds support keeping the ferry terminal in public hands. That margin would undoubtedly increase when folks come to fully understand the additional importance of that area for possible ferry service, marina or commercial fisheries uses.
With the execution of this lease, the countdown clock is ticking. The state’s willingness to step up in this situation buys vital time for the community to further hone its vision for that property.