A Canadian ferry company that stopped service to Bar Harbor in 2009 is exploring a return, based on the potential availability of an Eden Street site the town may buy.
Bay Fe rr ies Limited is considering whether to resume the Bar Harbor-Nova Scotia ferry service at the former terminal it used from 1997 to 2009, CEO Mark MacDonald said in a letter to the Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee.
The company’s announcement comes as the Town Council-appointed committee determines whether buying the terminal would help councilors with their biggest challenge: tourist traffic congestion. The committee is due to decide next week on whether to recommend that Bar Harbor buy the site from the state and if so how to use it.
Committee members are examining whether allowing tenders to use the facility would make downtown traffic from cruise-ship passengers more manageable. Councilors must decide by December whether to approve a purchase. Residents will have the final say in a June referendum.
Town Manager Cornell Knight said he regards Bay Ferries’ possible return as a positive development in that it would fulfill a state requirement that the site have a maritime transportation use.
“It would provide regular income for development of the property,” Knight said Wednesday. “If we can work out the parking issues that they have talked about, it could be positive.”
MacDonald indicated in his letter that his company’s recent success with its Portland service — which it began last year, replacing another company that ran it since 2014 — has helped restore Bar Harbor as at least a potentially viable transit point.
Bay Ferries dropped its Bar Harbor service, which was seasonal, in 2010. An expected loss in Canadian provincial government subsidies in 2010, which had peaked at more than $5.65 million since 1997, and a drop in customers from between 100,000 and 150,000 to fewer than 77,000 in 2009, prompted the decision.
The company will determine if the site needs upgrades and consult with U.S. Customs and Border Protection before deciding whether to seek to resume the Bar Harbor service. If it does, it will use a catamaran familiar to Bar Harbor — the U.S. flagged “Alakai,” which goes by the commercial name of “The Cat.” Its season runs spring to fall.
Bay Ferries recognizes it would have to share the facility with the “much broader consideration which your committee and the town must give to potential use of the ferry terminal,” MacDonald wrote.
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