COMMENTARY

Mockups of Frenchman Bay in 2025; How Maine is slowly destroying its pristine coastline and the environment

LAMOINE, Feb. 5, 2021 – QSJ commissioned the following mockups to show realistically what Frenchman Bay could look like in a few short years. These “mockups” are composites of actual photos taken of cruise ships, fish farm pens in the waters surrounding Acadia National Park.

A VIEW SOUTHWARD TOWARD ACADIA NATIONAL PARK FROM FRENCHMAN BAY
COOKE SALMON PENS NEAR FRENCHBORO, CRUISE SHIPS SUPER-IMPOSED ON PHOTO OF FRENCHMAN BAY

The town of Bar Harbor already uses Frenchman Bay for cruise ship anchorage (Anchorage B), so the mockups contain reasonable assumptions for views from the north – Sorrento, Lamoine, Hancock.

There are at least two applications under way to develop fish farming in Frenchman Bay, and there is no telling how many more will surface if they are approved. Here is QSJ’s take on fish farms published late last year.

QSJ also wrote last fall about the most noxious element of cruise ships – that they are among the worst polluters on earth. No one monitors their emissions as their stacks bellow dark smoke which, during the prevailing southwesterly wind of summer here, heads directly toward the aforementioned towns. This video is a good summary of cruise ship pollution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2N9JHYtAzVk

What an irony that Portland and Bar Harbor, two of the most progressive communities in the United States, are parties to such willful destruction of the planet. Whatever effort to reduce our carbon footprint on MDI is canceled – in a huge mismatch – by supporting the cruise ships industry.

At least one Bar Harbor Council member has stated falsely that Acadia National Park monitors air quality and has given Bar Harbor a passing grade. It does not, and it has not. Its air screeners cannot reach Frenchman Bay to detect pollution from the ships.

Moreover, the number of ships have gone from a handful in the late Eighties to nearly 200 in 2019 increasing the chance of the ships striking Right Whales as they churn into Frenchman Bay.

Mark F. Riewestahl, Principal
Mark Riewestahl

QSJ commissioned these photo composites from an incredibly talented designer Mark Riewestahl, owner of Black Spruce Design https://blacksprucedesign.com. Mark is graduating this spring from College of the Atlantic but is already in his second year of growing a successful LLC. He has enjoyed working with local MDI organizations, such as the Mount Desert Island Historical Society.

Bar Harbor cruise ship straw poll will only unleash more animus

BAR HARBOR, Feb. 5, 2021 – This town has a habit of throwing good money after bad so why not commission a survey on the question of cruise ships which will only generate more questions. Let’s keep kicking the can down the road ..

The Town Council has already received “buckets of emails,” as one council member put it, so there is plenty of data to support either position – ban or restrict cruise ships. In fact the council member Val Peacock told the research firm hired to manage the survey to consider the emails which she forwarded from a file she compiled.

The idea of a survey came from council member Gary Friedmann late last year. But at a project review meeting with the research firm Pan Atlantic this week, it became painfully clear the construction of a comprehensive questionnaire will be difficult.

Pan Atlantic is a Portland-based firm which suffered a black eye last fall when it conducted a poll in early October predicting a Sara Gideon victory over Susan Collins. Pan Atlantic was not the only polling firm which got it wrong, but it predicted a whopping 7.1 percent win for Gideon when most pollsters had it in the margin or error less than 3 to 4 percent. https://bangordailynews.com/2020/10/15/politics/sara-gideon-leads-susan-collins-by-7-points-in-new-maine-poll/

Annie Clark, Communications Director for the Collins campaign, said at the time, “A two-week-old online poll—especially in this environment—might as well be two years old,” Clark said. “That said—we think this is a very tight race.”

Was the poll a marketing ploy? Certainly Pan Atlantic got a lot of press. Town Manager Cornell Knight wrote in an email that his staff chose Pan Atlantic because “they had the best proposal and would do a good job.” Its president, Patrick Murphy, did not return a message left by QSJ.

QSJ would have asked him to explain his methodology as stated by the company, “Data were weighted using US Census Bureau data to match the composition of Maine’s historical voting population based on Congressional District, age, education, and gender.” What does not mean?

Indeed, research firms often rely on templates and other data points to manage the cost of surveys and collating results. One eagle-eyed Bar Harbor council member spotted just such a misplaced template in Pan Atlantic presentation. “You’re not going to send our report to Raymond, are you?” Council member Jill Goldthwait asked sarcastically, when she discovered that the presentation to Bar Harbor was meant for the town of Raymond. “You’re a victim of cut and paste.”

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FLOWCHART PRESENTED BY PAN ATLANTIC SHOWING ERROR

The error was minor and the Pan Atlantic team was chagrined.

What is not minor, however, is the extreme deadline put on the project to have final deliverables by late March. The firm must design a 4-page questionnaire, have it vetted by the council and at a public hearing, mail out the survey and give the council a final report. Will the voters trust the results, given Pan Atlantic history and the deadline?

The issue simply does not lend itself to a straw poll, like the one conducted by MDI towns last year with a yes/no answer: Do you support the town continuing to explore an islandwide middle school?

Council members spent most of the review session with questions which only illuminated the complexity of the issues.

Among those discussed:

Do cruise ships defile the Bar Harbor Brand?

Are traditional Maine institutions such as the lobster industry marginalized by cruise ships?

Who benefits or are harmed directly and indirectly by cruise ships?

Do cruise ships “crowd out” residents wishing to use restaurants and other village services?

Is one mailed survey per household adequate?

And there is the question of security. How do you prevent people from gaming the system?

In this case, there are only two essential questions: Should the Town of Bar Harbor ban cruise ships? Or should the town restrict them? On the second question, ideas abound – from capping the number of ships or passengers, to restricting visits only in autumn, to imposing no-ship days so residents may plan around a calendar. Many of those ideas are already contained in the emails.

What would a $12,600 survey do to settle the question? Not much. It may only contribute to the tortured debate. Moreover, with such a small project the research firm will need to manage costs to squeeze out a profit, and it’s already managing expectations.

Pan American founder Murphy fielded questions about whether a single paper survey per household is adequate and how to combat fake entries online. Jill Goldthwait correctly identified the cruise ship question as “a hot issue” which goes beyond Bar Harbor. But her motivation was not altruism, but in keeping the survey out of the hands of neighboring towns residents.

Which begs another question: What about all the other towns impacted? The stakeholders on the issue of cruise ships include every town on MDI and Frenchman Bay. As a Lamoine resident said, “Cruise ships benefit only one town” and harm 10, with their lights, noise, air pollution and out-of-context presence “on our pristine coastline.”

Patrick Murphy said he expected to receive 400-500 responses. Is such a straw poll meaningful or will it only agitate an already aggrieved citizenry mistrustful of the motivations of this council?

Bar Harbor lost its innocence long ago when it allowed hoteliers to demolish West Street and turn it into a cheap Vegas-like strip. The town won’t let me play guitar for tips in public but it’s happy to allow the cruise industry to unload hordes of camera-crazed tourists behaving badly but armed with a passport which speaks volumes to a town which has lost its soul – a 3 38–  by 2 18-inch plastic card. Why not open a casino and be done with it? At least it will be less polluting.

Mount Desert’s Public Safety hazards with no solutions in sight

RUSTING CULVERT AT NORTHERN NECK CAUSEWAY

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 4, 2021 – Is there a common good remaining in our conjugated society whereas something so obvious as a benefit is orphaned and subject to the murmurs of officialdom – even here in our lovely hamlet?

Simply, can we still solve problems as a community?

Here is one problem: The causeway connecting Northern Neck peninsula on Long Pond to the rest of the island is in danger of collapsing because the two underlying culverts are rusting and metal shards are creating injuries to unwary visitors. During high season, about 60 households traverse that causeway.

Why do we care as a community?

Long Pond is the largest lake on MDI and used by thousands of canoeists and kayakers, many of whom port their water crafts over the causeway to return to the Pond’s End canoe and kayak rental center.

Cathy Waters injury

Cathy Waters wasn’t expecting the rusting hulk of a 40-year-old culvert to collapse when her leg pierced through the metal. It sliced her leg cleanly through multiple shears of excisions from her knee to her ankle. The injury required two surgeries. That was last summer.

Flash back 30 years, my son and I are walking onto the same culvert at the causeway. We throw pebbles into the pond. I try to teach my boy how to skip the rocks. It is still one of my fondest memories. We get down on our bellies in a prone position, put our heads down and look through the culvert to the other side.

Today that culvert is a clear and present danger to tourists, boaters, summer residents and anyone who needs to get onto Northern Neck. Cathy Waters was among the first to learn the hard way of the danger lurking under water, as most of the rusted metal lies below the surface. Unless something is done, she won’t be the last.

SUBMERGED METAL SHARDS ARE HARD TO SEE FROM THE SURFACE

Northern Neck is the peninsula jutting southward on Long Pond which bisects the lake. It was once an island until 1950 when a developer, Tom Flynn, built a causeway for access to his lots so they could be sold more easily.

Three current residents of Northern Neck petitioned the town of Mount Desert this week for relief to repair the current causeway and culvert and were told the town did not own the causeway and did not have the authority to repair the culverts which did not seem like an unreasonable response, except that the problem was not solved.

All sides shared similar concerns about this public hazard. Public Works Director Tony Smith offered the town’s assistance, but first, he said, the residents must form a road association and claim some standing, and perhaps commit to paying for some of the repair.

The three petitioners – Bob Foster of  3 Pine Cove Lane, Rob Shea of 36 Northern Neck Road, and Bill Waters  118 Northern Neck Road, said in a prepared statement, “We are volunteers who see to the year-round maintenance of the road surface. We collect funds from the owners to pay the costs. We are not a road association. We have no authority to compel our neighbors to pay into our operating funds. We have no authority to place a lien on the properties of owners who do not pay.”

Northern Neck is one of the most interesting summer enclaves on MDI, along with Seal Harbor, Seal Cove and Bar Harbor’s Shore Road district. Its history is a rich tapestry of Americana (see related story below).

But the conundrum presented in this case on an island dominated by seasonal residents is not unique, or even rare. There will always be some who choose the lowest denominator so not participate in the greater good in a “what’s it in for me” stance or the assumption that some rich neighbor will simply write a check.

The petitioners said there are 60 privately owned Lots on Northern Neck that are taxed by the Town of Mt. Desert. “There are 55 individual owners of these Lots. Fifty-two (95%) of the 55 owners are seasonal residents.”

The problem not solved? A dangerous and menacing threat at the causeway.

Asking the homeowners to rally behind this cause – all 55 of them – at this time of the year is not practical. I live on a road with seven households. Only four agreed to help fix the common road. When the kayakers come on Memorial Day, it will be the true test.

A lesser safety problem brought before the town’s selectmen’s board was the crosswalk to Somesville Landing eliminated after Rt. 102 was paved last year.

Problem: There is no crosswalk to enable pedestrians to walk from Bob and Pat Foster’s agency in Somesville across Rt. 102 to the entrance to Somesville Landing. This was a concern raised by select member Geoff Wood, who lives in the area.

Response: Patrick Adams, regional transportation planner at the Maine DOT, said he conducted a site audit of the road and it was simply not safe to erect a crosswalk suggesting it was safe. He said it “was less less than five seconds” from the crest of the hill” and less than three seconds after that before a driver would confront someone on a crosswalk.

The Somesville Landing Association is a private organization providing access to Somes Sound for Mount Desert residents on the western side of the town. Members may launch boats and store dinghies. The town manages permits for the mooring field.

Adams said he couldn’t recall any serious pedestrian accidents at the site but said, “There have been many, many close calls.”

The following are excerpts of the minutes of the selectmen’s discussion:

“Mr. Wood inquired about the sidewalks in Somesville. In his earlier inquiry about the sidewalks in Somesville, it was explained that the DOT had determined there was not enough visibility to ensure safe crossing at some of the crosswalks in the Somesville area and they were removed. This resulted in no crosswalks between the lights and the library, making it difficult to get to the landing in Somesville. While the landing is not public, it is a place visitors and locals use.

“Mr. Wood understood the circumstance. He wondered how the elimination of the crosswalks has been mitigated. He inquired about whether sidewalks could be built on the other side of the road from the library crosswalk, or perhaps installing an additional crosswalk with warning lights. Otherwise, it seemed the ability to reach the landing was being abandoned.

Director Smith did not feel the ability to reach the landing was being abandoned. The other side ofthe street is too narrow in some places for sidewalk.

Director Smith noted the flashing lights and speed detectors at either end of the stretch of Route 102 running through Somesville has been an attempt at slowing drivers down. Additionally, the Town has looked at possibilities such as seasonal speed bumps and islands as well to control vehicle speed. None have been shown to be practicable.

Mr. Wood hoped the issue would not be forgotten. Part of the marketing of the area is access to the Somesville Landing. The landing property has within its deed that Somesville residents have access to the landing. Currently it cannot be accessed safely.

The inside story of Long Pond’s Jewish history

SOMESVILLE, Feb. 5, 2021 – Long Pond was sometimes referred to as “Great” Long Pond to distinguish it from the much smaller Long Pond in Seal Harbor. Its finger-like shape is symmetrical to Echo Lake, Somes Sound and Eagle Lake as if all were carved out by a giant hand.

It is the summer retreat for the famous, Susan Sarandon; the wealthy, former Fidelity CEO Ned Johnson; and oodles of lawyers and doctors from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Of the locals, Ken Paigen, the late director of Jackson Labs, would vanquish the field in the annual Long Pond regatta on the first Sunday of August in his 26-foot sloop Soleil. He always waved when he passed me as he steered Soleil on its ruthless, cold, calculating tack.

There is an inside story about Long Pond which I stumbled upon in 1985 when driving down Northern Neck. “Hey, there are a lot of Jewish sounding names,” I said to my wife as we passed several wooden name plates hammered into trees and posts which were unmistakably Eastern European of the Ashkenazi persuasion. They were out of context from my own expectation for what a small Maine community should look like on Britannica.com. “Jews in Maine?” I said to myself.

First, it gave me a level of comfort as an immigrant with a Jewish name who seeks peace with the diaspora which is code for “why we are still hiding.” I didn’t give it much thought until I discovered Judith S. Goldstein’s “Crossing Lines,” her masterpiece on the history of Jews in Maine and in three communities – Bangor, Mount Desert and Calais. Used copies are available on Amazon, which is where I purchased my copy.

Here is an excerpt:

“While Bar Harbor sought the tourists, and Northeast Harbor and Seal Harbor ignored them, hardly anyone noticed a small group of European Jewish immigrants who slipped into the western part of the island especially around Long Pond. These people have fled Hitler in the 1930s in the Nazi conquests in the 1940s. They came from the cosmopolitan bourgeoisie from cities throughout Europe such as Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Budapest.”

Much of Great Long Pond’s shores are on Acadia National Park land and the diversity of mountains, lakes and streams reminded them of their homeland.

“As European Jews they shared common interests and tastes, as well as a history of displacement and regeneration in America. They were not observant. None sought to develop any religious institutions on the island. Several in fact were married to non-Jews. The European Jewish immigrants who gathered around the untouched beauty of Long Pond did not look to the island’s clubs for social affirmation. They simply enjoyed the freedom of Acadia National Park with its magnificent coast, ponds, trails and carriage roads. In Somesville and other communities on the western part of the island as well as on Cranberry Isle, they found the simplicity of New England country life.”

Some of the Jewish families are still extant on Northern Neck.

MAX RUDOLF

The conductor Max Rudolf was one of the first to come to the island. “Fearful of the outbreak of anti-Semitic hostilities in his native Germany Rudolf had taken his family to Prague in 1929 then to Sweden and finally to the United States in 1940. A casual question from a friend led Rudolf, the charming and highly intellectual artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera and his family to the island in 1950.” (Rudolf’s grandson is still a summer resident of Northern Neck)

Mary Peltz, editor of the Opera News and longtime summer resident of Bar Harbor, was the one who recommended Rudolf consider the Arthur Prey cottages on Long Pond.

According to “Crossing Lines”:
“For generations , Prey’s family had owned property on Northern Neck on Long Pond and unbeknownst to Mary Peltz, Prey just sold his large holdings to Tom Flynn, speculator from Ohio. Rudolf followed her advice and spent a month on Mount Desert. By that time Flynn was desperate to sell lots in his newly formed subdivision. He was not alone. Mike Garber, a Jew from Connecticut who came to know and love the island when he was stationed at the Trenton airbase during the war. Within a few years Garber acquired a great deal of land in Bar Harbor and around Long Pond. It did not matter to him or Flynn who bought the land of where the buyers came from and it was from Flynn that Rudolf bought three parcels.”

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