Members of Bar Harbor's Ferry Terminal Property Advisory Committee check out the property during a site inspection in this 2017 file photo. The town has decided to demolish the defunct pier and to replace it with a new marina, which is projected to cost between $17 million and $21 million. Credit: Nick Sambides Jr. / BDN

The Bar Harbor Town Council has endorsed the idea of demolishing the old ferry terminal pier on Route 3 that’s been out of use since 2009. The town would replace it with a new structure that would accommodate a marina at the site.

When the work might be done has not been determined, as key aspects of the project are still up in the air. The town has not budgeted money for the project and so still has to figure out how it will pay for it. After it secures the funding, the town will have to find a contractor to do the work. The cost of tearing down and then replacing the pier has been projected to be between $17 million and $21 million.

The town hasn’t yet determined the design of the proposed marina, and isn’t likely to tear down the old pier until it has a final design and all other aspects of the project figured out, said Cornell Knight, Bar Harbor’s town manager. Potential designs presented to the town include new floats, boat slips and a new ramp that could be built off the pier’s two existing causeways, each of which extends a few hundred feet into Frenchman Bay.

The 7-acre waterfront property has not been used since 2009, when Bay Ferries ended its service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. After operating The CAT out of Portland from 2016-2018, Bay Ferries decided to return to the Bar Harbor site but has yet to resume operations.

The ferry company is leasing only part of the property from the town, but the cost of making upgrades to those facilities so they meet U.S. Customs and Border Protection requirements ran higher than expected, causing construction delays in 2019. And since last year, the Canadian government has shut down its border with the U.S. due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada will reopen its border to vaccinated U.S. citizens on Aug. 9, but the U.S. won’t immediately reciprocate.

Bay Ferries will use mooring pilings on the pier’s northern edge to secure The CAT when it is in port, but the town will leave those elements untouched when it demolishes the existing pier and then builds a new system of anchored floats and ramps to replace it, Knight said.

The existing pier, which was built in 1956, was designed for a monohull ferry that vehicles entered and exited from the side. With The CAT catamaran, vehicles enter and exit the ferry at the stern via an adjustable ramp connected directly to the shore.

The town bought the ferry terminal property in early 2019 from the state for $3.5 million, which is the same price the state paid to acquire it from the Canadian government two years earlier, according to the town’s property tax assessing records.

The site had been considered a possible location where large cruise ships could dock, but local voters prohibited that possible use in a 2019 referendum. Other potentially compatible uses that remain in consideration include public parking, a small public park, an intermodal bus stop and docking space for cruise ship tenders transporting passengers to and from shore.

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....