A cruise operated by Royal Caribbean International in Frenchman Bay, off the coast of Bar Harbor, Me.CreditTristan Spinski for The New York Times
BAR HARBOR, Me. — Residents of this scenic coastal town have struggled for the final numerous years with a conundrum familiar to anyone living in a stunning location that attracts tourists: How do you sustain its essence when crowds threaten the extremely qualities they come to appreciate?
Given that the late 1990s, Bar Harbor has been a common port of contact for cruise ships. Considerably of the attraction is nearby Acadia National Park, exactly where deep evergreen forests meet the craggy, glacier-sculpted coast of the Atlantic and exactly where Cadillac Mountain, the highest point along the Eastern Seaboard, delivers spectacular views.
But in recent years, the number of cruise ships has sharply escalated, aggravating tensions among residents whose livelihoods depend on tourists — and want to cater to the cruise ships — and other individuals who could or could not rely on tourists but who worry that too many could spoil what draws men and women right here in the first place.
“We do not want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” one particular town resident stated at a packed meeting last month on the situation. “But the goose is currently sick.”
Outsiders have been flocking to Mount Desert Island, property to Bar Harbor and the national park, since the mid-1800s, when painters from the Hudson River School found its all-natural beauty. Rockefellers, Astors, Vanderbilts and Carnegies homesteaded right here in Gilded Age style, constructing mammoth 1,000-room hotels and opulent “cottages.”
Significantly of that fell to ruin in 1947 when a fire roared across the island, consuming scores of mansions and scorching thousands of acres of the park.
The community that has sprouted up given that retains vestiges of those exclusive summer season colonies, but they coexist with T-shirt shops, tour buses and a big middle class of shopkeepers, retirees and telecommuters who reside year-round on the island, about two-thirds of the way up the Maine coast.
The conflict stems from competing visions over Bar Harbor’s future and how a lot the town ought to adapt itself to the cruise ship business, which has magnified Bar Harbor’s standing as a best tourist destination.
“Why need to people from someplace else care about this?” asked Anna Durand, owner of the Acacia Property Inn, as the aroma of fresh-made quince paste filled her kitchen. “Because it could happen to you. We are a cautionary tale. When is adequate as well much?”
Even though cruise ships are enjoying a worldwide expansion, other towns on Mount Desert Island have banned them.
But Bar Harbor has typically welcomed the market, seeing it as a important spur to the seasonal economy.
“Before the cruise ships started coming to Bar Harbor, our tourist season ended soon after Labor Day,” mentioned Kristi Bond, who owns and operates four restaurants downtown. “Now, September and October are two of our busiest months.”
The number of cruise ships visiting Bar Harbor reached 163 in 2017, up from 105 in 2016. It is by far the state’s largest cruise ship port.
The town, cognizant of the street congestion that the passengers trigger, has capped the day-to-day number of visitors who can come ashore — 3,500 in summer season, 5,500 in spring and fall.
But Bar Harbor has only 5,200 year-round residents, and on some days, the crowds are overwhelming. They pour in at once to the quaint downtown, exactly where dozens of tour buses await, like a standing army. On occasion, the road to the summit of Cadillac is closed because of congestion.
“This is about some people being afraid that we’re reaching our saturation point,” mentioned Paul Paradis, who owns a hardware retailer right here and is chairman of the town council. “I am not of that college.”
He noted that the ship passengers — a total of about 185,000 in 2017 — make up significantly less than six percent of the town’s 3.3 million annual vacationers. And sometimes the road to Cadillac is closed on non-cruise ship days.
Most vacationers come by vehicle. Even though they take up all the parking spots and clog the roads, some residents favor them over ship passengers because they spend much more funds. They keep longer, verify into hotels and consume at restaurants, even though ship passengers leave just before dinner and overnight at sea.
Critics of the ships have other complaints, saying the giant floating palaces are wildly out of scale with the town and develop noise, air, water and light pollution. (Acadia boasts famously vibrant stars at evening, and Bar Harbor has an ordinance to minimize its sky glow.)
But even detractors recognize that the ships are right here to remain. And in June, residents voted for a zoning adjust that cleared the way for the town to acquire an old unused ferry terminal, a mile out of town, to accommodate them.
Amongst the makes use of for the terminal proposed by the town’s consultants was a huge berthing pier exactly where the cruise ships could dock straight, permitting passengers to stroll ashore. Proper now, since the piers in town are relatively tiny, the huge ships have to anchor out in the bay and use little boats to ferry passengers to town.
But the berthing-pier idea alarmed several residents and further roiled debate more than how considerably the town need to cater to the cruise ships. At an acrimonious public session, and in polling, most residents rejected a giant pier for the ships, preferring alternatively a marina that could have numerous distinct makes use of. A single group went to court to attempt to invalidate the June vote. The letters column of the Mount Desert Islander, the nearby paper, bristled with angry screeds.
And then items took a surprising turn.
The town agreed to let a 40-member citizens committee figure out what was in the town’s ideal interest. The committee took its mission seriously, conducting hours of study on technical issues and holding several public meetings. A expert facilitator helped guide the discussions.
In November, as the last of the tourists left Bar Harbor for the winter, the committee agreed that it did not want a large berthing pier.
Rather, it favored converting the ferry terminal into a marina, offering public access for recreational boaters as well as parking, bike rentals and a tram to circulate by way of town. The cruise ships would nevertheless anchor in the bay, but smaller boats could deliver their passengers to the new marina, where they could board tour buses.
The town council then unanimously accepted the committee’s report. Many residents rejoiced, saying that the folks, not the cruise ship business, had been controlling the town’s fate.
But confusion erupted later over specifically what transpired.
Mr. Paradis, the council chairman, indicated in media interviews that the council had not adopted the report and would not necessarily stick to its recommendation for a marina.
“All we did was accept their report,” stated Mr. Paradis, who has lengthy favored a berthing pier. “But we have not decided to construct a pier or not create a pier.”
He mentioned the next step would be for the town’s consultants to analyze regardless of whether the marina could be financially self-sustaining.
At the town council’s Dec. 19 meeting, residents and other council members stated Mr. Paradis’s comments have been confusing and appeared to recommend, contrary to common belief, that the strategy for the ferry terminal was unresolved. This promised the debate would continue, as residents prepare to vote in June on no matter whether to authorize the town’s acquire of the terminal for $3.5 million.
And as winter settled over Bar Harbor, yet another threat appeared. The Trump administration has proposed raising the entrance costs to Acadia and particular other national parks to $70 per vehicle from $25, to spend for deferred upkeep. A lot of right here — which includes some cruise ship lines — worry that this will discourage folks from going to Acadia and possibly Bar Harbor.
“Both the park and the town are facing the exact same puzzle,” said Ms. Durand, the inn owner. “How do you accommodate as several men and women as you can even though nonetheless preserving the resource?”
Published at Sun, 31 Dec 2017 18:57:18 +0000