WINTER HARBOR, Maine — In an effort to further its mission and to maintain a transportation link across Frenchman Bay, the nonprofit Schoodic Institute has signed a 20-year lease on a local marina.
The marina, located on Sargent Street, has served as a docking terminal for seasonal ferry service between Bar Harbor and Winter Harbor for the past several years. The Island Explorer bus system operates a seasonal bus service that carries passengers from the marina around the one-way loop road in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park.
Mark Berry, president of Schoodic Institute, said Friday that by leasing the marina the institute gains direct access to the ocean for research and ensures the marina will continue to be a place where ferry passengers can board the Island Explorer bus. The Schoodic Institute operates the Schoodic Education and Research Center in Acadia at the tip of Schoodic Point where, despite the fact that it used to be a Navy base, there is no waterfront infrastructure.
“The Schoodic Institute saw that [marina] property as important to our [research and education] mission and important to the community as a transportation hub,” Berry said. “The ocean is a really important component [of what we do].”
The institute currently has access to the intertidal zone near its campus at Schoodic Point, he added, but leasing the marina will enable it to have a place to dock vessels that are part of research projects.
The marina consists of a wharf with a floating dock and three buildings, one of which will continue to be used for boat storage “at least in the short term,” Berry said.
Work is being done inside a second building to create office and exhibit space, he said. Seascape Kayak and Bike will operate its kayak and bicycle rental business out of this building, which also will have on display several items from the former Bar Harbor Whale Museum. College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, which owned and operated the museum, has had the museum items in storage ever since the museum was displaced from downtown Bar Harbor in 2010 to make way for the West Street Hotel.
The facility opened Memorial Day weekend, to coincide with the seasonal opening of the new Schoodic Woods campground in Acadia and the start of ferry service across the bay. Berry said two ferries will carry passengers between the marina and Bar Harbor, with Downeast Windjammer Cruises docking at the Bar Harbor Inn and Frenchman Bay Research Boating docking at College of the Atlantic. Both will operate through Columbus Day, he said.
The Island Explorer is increasing its capacity on the Schoodic Peninsula this year, starting up its service there on Memorial Day weekend instead of the usual June 23 start date for the entire bus system, which primarily serves Mount Desert Island, Berry added. It will operate two buses on the Schoodic Peninsula instead of just one, allowing it to pick up and drop off passengers at the marina every half-hour.
Sheridan Steele, who retired last year as superintendent of Acadia National Park, is volunteering to serve as interim executive director of the Schoodic Marine Center, the institute indicated in a prepared statement.
“This is an exciting opportunity to continue working on important projects related to the Schoodic Peninsula and Winter Harbor,” Steele said in the statement. “My goal is to work with many other potential partners to develop the Marine Center concept in ways that will benefit the local community and the Schoodic Institute.”
Berry said the institute has an option for another 20-year lease on the site when the current lease expires in 2036. More improvements are expected as usage of the property increases in the coming years, he added, during which time the institute hopes it will partner with local businesses to provide additional services.