Bar Harbor vote could mean new terminal for Yarmouth ferry
'I think it would be a good way to keep that connection with Canada'
A decision made this week by residents of Bar Harbor, Maine, could result in a new terminal for the Yarmouth ferry.
Residents were asked on Tuesday whether they wanted the town to take out a $3.5-million bond to purchase the ferry terminal lot from the Maine Department of Transportation. Results were 1,380 in favour and 213 against.
$1.5M subsidy increase
The vote in Maine came one day before Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines told reporters the subsidy for the Nova Scotia-Maine crossing in the 2018 season is expected to be $10.9 million. It is an increase of $1.5 million over the budgeted subsidy for 2017.
Hines said rising fuel costs account for the biggest part of the increase.
"I wish it was going down by $1.5 million, but it isn't and you know, [it's] the nature of the run we have there and the vessel that we have," he said Wednesday.
Hines said the strength of the vote in Bar Harbor is encouraging in regards to having a ferry terminal there.
Bay Ferries, which operates The Cat high-speed ferry between Nova Scotia and Maine, has been in conversation with Bar Harbor about the potential use of the ferry terminal.
Mark MacDonald, the company's CEO, said in an email that the vote "enables [Bay Ferries] to enter into a meaningful discussion with the Town about the possibility of ferry service returning to Bar Harbor."
For the last two years, Bay Ferries has run The Cat between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine.
Problems in Portland
Though MacDonald can't say at this point whether the ferry service will be moving, he does admit there is concern with keeping the terminal in Portland.
"There is intense demand for land for development purposes in the Portland waterfront area, so we are concerned about the long-term availability of the land required for the ferry operation," he said.
He said that moving the ferry terminal to Bar Harbor would lessen uncertainty about long-term access to required ferry terminal lands.
Cornell Knight, Bar Harbor's town manager, said he thinks having the ferry terminal in Bar Harbor could be a good way of preserving a tradition. The MV Bluenose connected the two communities for more than 25 years beginning in the 1950s.
"I think it would be a good way to keep that connection with Canada that we've had here for the last 60 years," said Knight. "And it's also a way to pay for the development of the site."
The town of Bar Harbor hired Bermello Ajamil & Partners as marine terminal consultants. The company finalized a business plan for the terminal property last week.
The terminal has been vacant since 2010.