Last nights Cruise Ship Meeting went off very well, however there was a couple of points of interest that came up. Exactly how many cruise ships are we talking about? For years the limit on cruise ships has been set at three, however last night the number five came up a number of times. How did we go from three to five? The math doesn't add up, and Paul only seemed to confuse this by stating we should not be looking at the number of cruise ships, but at the cap number.
So looking at the cap number, or number of passengers allowed off the ships at any given time, it was pointed out that the two large ships docked at the old ferry terminal would pretty much cover the cap. If that is the case, why have three other cruise ships setting in the harbor idle, with no one coming ashore? It just doesn't make sense.
Back years ago when the town first began talking about taking over the ferry terminal, the thinking was back than was to take the cruise ships out of the harbor and place them at the ferry terminal, which would make the harbor safer. That made sense, however, somewhere along the way plans seemed to have been changed, and now we seem to be looking at keeping the three cruise ships per day in the harbor, and adding two new ones to the old ferry terminal.
The people making their presentation only seemed to confuse the issue, with Paul at one point stating he thought we were only looking at having two ships at the ferry terminal and one perhaps at the town pier, but the number five kept coming up and would not go away. The bottom line is that it does appear that five cruise ships are new number the town is working with, and not three as was the case.
Another question that was raised, at least in my mind, was exactly what counts toward the cap? Someone asked if the small cruise ships that dock at the end of the town pier - did their passengers count toward the cap? Paul answered that he believed they did count toward the cap - however someone else seated by him jumped in and added that they were not so sure about that. Why does this even matter?
Let's assume that the wording is such that cruise ships that are docked, and that do not require tendering, don't count toward the cap. If that were the case, than one could easily see why we have moved from three cruise ships to five - if that were the case than we would still have three cruise ships out in the harbor funning people ashore, all under the cap, and two new larger cruise ships at dock which would be outside the cap. I am not saying this is going to be the case, but when members of the town council aren't certain of what falls under the cap, it is something that needs to be looked into.
But the biggest stunner of the night, at least for me, was a question which came from the balcony. Some one asked if the town intended to still use Argonaut Park as a drop off point, or was the town looking at using different drop off points around town? Councilman's Paul's answer was that they were going to be using drop off points in different locations around town, which should give everyone a cause for concern. Anyone who lives in Bar Harbor knows there are currently no places for such drop off points along any of the busiest streets in town - none along cottage Street, none along Main Street, none along Mount desert Street or West Street, so where are these drop off points going to come from?
The only place they can come from is where you currently find parking stalls. Parking stalls are going to have to be converted into drop off points, or places where a number of buses can pull up into, drop off passengers, and pick up passengers to return them to the cruise ships. You simply can't do it any other way, space is extremely limited and taken up by parking stalls so a number of parking stalls on some of our busiest streets are going to have to be eliminated.
And that brings us full circle to a pet project the town council simply will not let go of, that parking garage. If the town eliminates a large number of parking stalls to create these new drop off points for buses, the town is going to have to build a parking garage, its just hard to see any way around it.
In my own opinion it just seems the town of Bar Harbor is moving way too quickly on too many fronts, all in an effort to get increased amounts of cash flowing into town. The town council wants a parking garage, they want the ferry terminal, they want five cruise ships instead of three per day, and they want parking meters placed throughout town. It's time to put the brakes on and take a hard long look at what we want the town to look like ten, twenty or fifty years down the road. Do we want five cruise ships here each day? And what is that going to do to the character of the town? And do we really want unsightly parking meters placed all around town, is that what we really want?
As for the parking garage, the same question has to be asked, do we really want or need one? No one ever looks anyplace else but to a parking garage to deal with downtown parking problems. One alternative is buying up valuable space that is currently available and creating a new large parking lot close to the center of downtown. I am talking about that old in slightly barn next door to city hall - buy that property and build a parking lot there. It may not get you the numbers a parking garage will get you, but it would add a large number of new parking spaces, and maybe that is all the town really needs.