To the Editor:
We are on the verge of losing control and access to one of the few remaining waterfront resources that Bar Harbor could have.
If the proposed Article 13 passes, the town will be denied the opportunity to determine the future of the ferry terminal site. Bar Harbor is and has always been dependent on tourism. There is no denying that reality. Those who wish it were not the case do not have the best interest of the community in mind.
Our town happens to be home to a unique and special college, two world-renowned research laboratories, many year-round businesses, and yes, hotels, restaurants, gift shops, bike shops, T-shirt shops and services that cater to seasonal visitors. There are many people living in our community who began their journey here while visiting and fell in love with the town, the island and Acadia National Park. It is a very special place.
We are a very diverse community because of this. So when major decisions are to be debated and voted on, the end result should be such that the community as a whole benefits, not just the interests of a few.
During my time on the board of the chamber of commerce years ago, we had much discussion about the pros and cons of having cruise ships dropping anchor here. We thought it was a great way to get visitors here without their vehicles. We thought many people would return for an extended stay. We also decided it was a good way to extend our season on both ends, benefiting our local economy.
All of those things are still true today. However, I will admit that there are days when the downtown waterfront is overwhelmed by it all. The proposal to create a cruise ship terminal would take the pressure off one of the nicest parts of the village.
If Article 13 passes, our ability to construct a new facility to better manage our cruise ship visitors will never happen. I have a strong sense that this is the actual goal.
There has been much misinformation coming from those who support Article 13. The notion that the taxpayers will be on the hook for $30-40 million (an inflated figure), the cost of developing the facility, is completely false.
The creation of a Bar Harbor Port Authority, something opponents also oppose, shields the community from that financial liability. It allows the town to have input into its management by electing three of the five board members. That entity and those elected officials are the best way for the town to manage that resource going forward.
It only takes one component in Article 13 to deny the viability of a Port Authority and a cruise ship facility: the provision that will not allow any ship longer than 300 feet to tie up. Being that the average cruise ship length is around 800 feet, this would kill the development of any such facility.
I must conclude that this was an intentional strategy.
I would expect that there would be an advertising campaign filled with misleading information pushing you to vote in favor of Article 13. Although there may be the names of local citizens associated with these ads, ask the question: who is actually paying for this? It’s safe to assume that many of the funders are not from Bar Harbor and do not have the interest of our entire community in mind.
Compared to all of the other communities here on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor has almost no commercial waterfront or convenient public access. If Article 13 is adopted, we will lose the opportunity to purchase this property and develop it as the community may determine. It will wind up in the hands of a private hotel developer. Who knows? Maybe they’ll build a casino on that site.
We can debate the town’s development and use of the old ferry terminal site going forward, but only if we first are able to secure it for the town. Passage of Article 13 will forever deny us that opportunity.
For the sake of our entire community and to protect access to this valuable resource, please vote “yes” on Article 12 and “no” on Article 13.