Town Council Receives Update on Ferry Terminal Plan

Potential Marina Still In The Works

BAR HARBOR—There was an elephant in the Town Council Chambers Tuesday night as councilors discussed the town’s property at 121 Eden Street, Harbor Committee Chair Jeff Miller said, and that elephant was shaped like a CAT, a high-speed ferry that moves passengers from Yarmouth, Canada to Bar Harbor.

Miller said the long-term viability of the CAT was the elephant in the room during the discussion of the town’s plans for the site, part of which it leases to Bay Ferries.

“It certainly didn’t do the numbers that it was counting on or projecting and the Canadian government could decide to stop funding it,” Miller said. The space is relatively small as it is, without the CAT there, it’s bigger, but Bar Harbor would lose the income from the Cat’s lease if the CAT were not there, he said.

Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston has pushed back at Bay Ferries, the company that operates the CAT. His government subsidizes $17 million for the ferry service and has ordered an economic impact study on the service this fall. The study is said to be a “broad overview” of the Cat’s impact for Yarmouth and the region.

The ferry’s Yarmouth lease has been extended for an additional year. The subsidy equals a $472 per passenger expense for Nova Scotia. The government had hoped for 60,000 per season to disembark the ferry into Nova Scotia. Bay Ferries Limited reported that at the end of its sailing season that it ferried 14,972 vehicles and 36,151 passengers between Bar Harbor and Canada. This accounts for 113 round trips and 12 cancellations due to weather.

Traffic from Bar Harbor was 25% lower than in 2018. The press release from Bay Ferries indicates that this is less of a percentage than the total reduction of U.S. based land traffic into Canada this summer. That decrease was 45%. Traffic coming from Canada to the United States increased.

Councilor Gary Friedmann said that he didn’t imagine the Canadian government pulling the plug on the CAT soon.

The Council and Miller spent most of their time together discussing the plans for the Eden Street site.

 “It would be nice if we could at least get to a point where –within no more than two years—we are actually working on that construction phase. Nothing there is going to be inexpensive. Even just dismantling what’s there is going to be a chunk of change,” Miller said.  

He added that except for what Bay Ferries has shored up for the CAT, there is nothing in the water that the town would now use. The town purchased the location in 2018. It was first built for the Bluenose ferry in 1956. Miller’s update was about GEI Consultants (the company working with the Harbor Committee on the town’s master plan for the former ferry terminal).

In his Manager’s Memo, a part of the Town Council December 20 packet, Town Manager Kevin Sutherland wrote,

“As a recap, the Town of Bar Harbor was awarded a SHIP grant last spring to develop concept plans and the Town hired GEI to work with the Harbormaster and the Harbor Committee to see that plan through. GEI is just starting the December 2022 to May 2023 draft concept plan development and continuing the stakeholder/public input outreach process. Included in the packet is GEI’s scope of work and schedule for Council’s reference.

“GEI is still discussing a public input workshop, either before the concept plans are ready for review (although feedback from the Harbor Committee suggests that the public has already weighed in a fair amount during the property acquisition effort) or after the draft concepts are ready for review. It would be good for the Council to participate in that workshop once it is scheduled. They are also planning to do a final presentation in December of 2023 to the Town and that could either be at a Harbor Committee meeting, a Town Council meeting, or a joint meeting of the two. We’ll continue to work with GEI to plan that meeting for the presentation.”


Committee Worries Over Communication About Town’s Plans at Former Ferry Terminal

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