Harbor Committee Talks About Potential Marina Plans

Lack of quorum prevents any official actions

BAR HARBOR—Though its members could not take action or even approve an agenda because of a lack of a quorum on Monday, the Harbor Committee spent some time discussing a winter float down on the town pier as well as the marina project on Route 3 at the site of Bay Ferries and the Cat. This is town-owned land.

During the beginning of the meetings some members and Harbormaster Chris Wharff discussed the relatively mild winter and how in the past ice would come through the bay and move boat moorings. One Bar Harbor resident used to land his biplane on the ice by the MDI biological lab. Another recalled being able to repair his boat on the iced-in Northeast Harbor marina during one winter, standing on it as he drilled.

The end of the meeting also focused on ice as Wharff brought up the winter float and ramp on the town pier. Each year, he said, it is damaged and costs between $2,000 to $4,000 to repair and maintain. The float typically runs along the left side of the pier. Wharff said, “It’s kind of an old junky float.”

He said that it has only sporadic usage. The committee and Wharff were unsure if the town had to have it in for liability or some sort of government mandate. Committee Chair Jeff Miller also asked if the float is needed for emergency and life safety issues. Sometimes, he said, the town has to have something that isn’t used daily like a fire engine.

“When we need it, we’re real glad we had it,” Miller said. This might be true of the float which could help with getting someone in and out of the water quickly or acting as a staging area for emergency personnel prior to getting up to the town pier and parking area. 

Wharff said that the 16 feet by 24 feet float is usually under four feet of water with ice on top that has to be chipped off.


Miller said that he has received an email from GEI, the engineering firm creating a concept plan for the land and water where the Bay Ferries terminal and CAT are located on Route 3. Some committee members have heard from GEI as well. The organization is supposed to be contacting stakeholders for opinions about the potential uses and needs of the area.

The group briefly discussed whether fishermen would want to be relocated to the marina. One member, Jon Carter, a fisherman, said, “I personally think we need more of something for recreational. We can work with what we’ve got. I’ve been doing it for 52 years.”

His vision, he said is for it to be a nice marina with more recreational vessels and larger vessels that wanted to come and spend the money and stay there.

Another member said that regular and reliable fuel access that didn’t have to be shared with Bar Harbor Whale Watch and fishermen, and that a place for medium sized yachts would be good, as well as pump-out capabilities.

Wharff said that the bottom line is having space and that there’s not enough at the pier to have it all for the working waterfront. Wharff said he wouldn’t rule out a mixed use space at the marina.

Committee member Micala Delepierre said that what they want is what many towns already have and that it’s not a unique combination nor is Bar Harbor unique in those wants or needs. She’d like to talk to more fisherman and people who work on tour boats, not necessarily a huge public forum. They have a lot of brilliant minds and experiences, she said.

But though GEI is still in their timeline that had been presented, Delepierre said it often feels like the committee is twiddling its collective thumbs waiting. She asked what are some productive conversations they can have while they are waiting. She wondered if part of the problem was that the council doesn’t have a delineated involvement unless the committee reaches out, yet multiple staff members as well as the town council and the Harbor Committee have responsibility in the project.

“We move at glacial speed,” Miller said and added that this is often true of town committees and big projects.

It is likely, Wharff said, that the project will occur in phases with a boat ramp and floats (either permanent or temporary) being phase one.

A member of the public spoke to being frustrated with the process with GEI’s discussions with stakeholders. She has not yet been contacted. It was suggested that she reach out to them.

The consultants, GEI, have held a site visit, kick-off meeting, and have told Miller that they are gathering stakeholder input, which will be compiled and originally had said it would be presented at the committee’s February 13 meeting. 

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).

Next up would be a demolition concept plan for the town-owned site which is partially leased to Bay Ferries, which runs the CAT, and that would also be presented to the committee in February. 

Though there are some preliminary concept sketches there is  no plan yet, Miller said, but there is supposed to be one by December of this year. 

In his Manager’s Memo, a part of the Town Council’s December 20 packet, former 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.”





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