Bar Harbor will start the process of removing parts of the decrepit pier at the ferry terminal, but still has to decide how it eventually will want to replace it.
The work is being done at the request of Bay Ferries, which has a lease with the town that will allow it to dock The Cat ferry along the north side of the 66 year-old pier when it starts operating again from Bar Harbor this spring. An old covered pedestrian ramp on the north side of the pier and two loading bridges that connect it to the south side will be removed.
The Nova Scotian ferry firm has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” according to a company official, to shore up the north side of the pier, and will continue to pay such maintenance costs.
Cars and trucks used to drive on the pier to get on and off ferries that were loaded through their sides. Since 1998 the service has used catamarans that are loaded through the bow, much of the pier has fallen out of use. The newer vessels are reached by a separate causeway and ramp that is next to but not physically attached to the pier.
There has been no ferry service from Bar Harbor across the Gulf of Maine to Nova Scotia since 2009. In returning to Bar Harbor, the ferry has signed a lease with the town to use the town-owned pier.
Bar Harbor’s town council has endorsed the idea of demolishing the pier and replacing it with a marina constructed of new docks and floats, but councilors have expressed some concern about overall project costs that could run between $17 million and $21 million.
What sort of final design the town will pursue, and how it will pay for the project has not been decided. It will likely take a few years before it goes to a town vote for approval. But councilors were told this week the town already has enough money in its capital improvement budget that it can use to cover the anticipated cost of roughly $200,000 to remove the old pedestrian ramp building and loading bridges.
“They’re eyesores down there,” council member Joe Minutolo said of the structures on the pier. “I am sure there are things blowing off of them in big winds.”
The removal of the building and loading bridges will at least slightly improve the pier’s appearance, and will help reduce the load borne by the pier’s pilings, officials said.
Mark Wilson, an official with Bay Ferries, told the council that when the town moves ahead with demolishing and rebuilding the rest of the old pier, the company will be willing to consider paying some of the costs of that project.