August 17, 2018
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Bar Harbor studies whether to turn ferry terminal into cruise-ship dock

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Tourists in Bar Harbor take pictures of the cruise ship AIDA Bella anchored offshore in 2013.
By Nick Sambides Jr., BDN Staff
Updated:

Bar Harbor is polling its residents and has 40 volunteers examining its most divisive issue: whether to turn a defunct ferry terminal into a cruise ship dock, or something else.

The 945-658 vote on June 14 to rezone the former Canadian ferry terminal off Eden Street divided Bar Harbor between those who support allowing more cruise ship traffic in town and those who dislike the noise and traffic that comes with it.

Bar Harbor’s examination comes as two other Mount Desert Island towns, Southwest Harbor and Northeast Harbor, have enacted cruise-ship traffic bans and a third, Tremont, is due to vote on one in November — all as the cruise ship industry enjoys a booming year.

Tourism draws to Bar Harbor about 3.3 million visitors every season, including 140,000 who come from cruise ships or other commercial tourist vessels.

Voters rejected another proposal on June 14 that would have effectively blocked large cruise ships from docking at the terminal.

Threats of lawsuits and boycotts of businesses have marked the cruise ship debate, Town Manager Cornell Knight said.

“It’s a divisive issue,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bar Harbor’s committee of 40 people is examining whether to allow cruise ships to berth at the terminal or to have them ferry passengers there instead of downtown. Using the terminal for purposes unrelated to cruise ships is also being explored, officials said. The town has until November to decide whether to buy the terminal from the state.

The town’s engagement coordinator, Nina St. Germain, has for a month been using a website called polco.us to poll residents on various issues, including cruise ships. The service costs $1,500 annually and helps town leaders offset the lack of attendance at their meetings, she said.

As of Thursday, 268 residents — out of 5,235, according to the latest census — had enrolled. Seven of the 15 questions posted concerned cruise ship traffic or the terminal.

“People can grumble on Facebook all they want, but in the place where it counts, they are asked for solutions,” said St. Germain.

 


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