A Better Approach to Protecting Frenchman Bay
Aaron Dority, Executive Director, Frenchman Bay Conservancy
Many of you have been closely following the discussion regarding the re-development of the former Blue Nose ferry terminal in Bar Harbor. During much of the past year, the debate focused on whether or not residents of Bar Harbor, and more broadly, residents in the Frenchman Bay region, wanted this facility to be the site of a future cruise ship pier. Last fall, on November 21st, the Bar Harbor Town Council unanimously voted to follow the recommendations from its Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee, and turn the property into a town dock, recreation, and parking area. This vote appeared to definitively put to rest the question of allowing cruise ship berthing at the old ferry terminal.
Unfortunately though, many people around Frenchman Bay have lingering concerns that their elected leaders are still greasing the skids for a cruise ship dock, pointing to recent comments from the Council Chair asserting that the Council has not in fact made a decision on this topic, as well as to recent state legislation that would enable the Town to establish a port authority, which would be needed if the Town develops the site for cruise ships, but may not be needed otherwise.
Tens of thousands of acres of land have been conserved all around Frenchman Bay by dozens of public and private partners. Future decisions regarding development on the shores of our bay need to be evaluated in terms of how they will impact our natural environment and our collective quality of life.
While our board of directors decided last year not to take a formal position at that time, we have voiced our support for continued conservation of this majestic part of the world. So many people flock to Mount Desert Island and the communities surrounding Frenchman Bay because of its natural beauty. Tens of thousands of acres of land have been conserved all around Frenchman Bay by dozens of public and private partners. Future decisions regarding development on the shores of our bay need to be evaluated in terms of how they will impact our natural environment and our collective quality of life.
Residents of communities all around the Bay should have some say in developments that will impact the well-being of all of them. Currently, only residents of Bar Harbor have decision-making authority for the future of the ferry terminal site, frustrating residents of other communities also impacted by that decision.
We need a better way to make decisions in the Frenchman Bay region. Other states have addressed this problem in multiple ways. It is time for the towns surrounding Frenchman Bay and our state elected officials to work together to design and implement a new approach to management of issues that involve many communities around a bay. While we expect that Bar Harbor residents will hold their local Council members accountable on their November, 2017 decision to support a public dock instead of a cruise ship berthing facility, this issue will not be the last one impacting thousands of people across multiple towns. It is time for a better approach to protecting the natural splendor of Frenchman Bay for the benefit of all.