Five days on Mt. Desert Island – in particular, the Village of Bar Harbor convinced me of one thing: this is the home of the friendliest people I have ever come across. The town is a tourist town – obviously. According to locals, the town shuts down during January, February and March – referring to the tourist oriented businesses. The tourists are gone. There seems to not be much other work in town, save Jackson Laboratory, which with its staff of veterinarians, physicians and scientific staff are probably the highest paid in the area. But working six to nine months a year at the beckon and behest of cash and credit card laden tourists, provides a lifestyle that is irresistible.
Back to the people: most of whom we spoke with were restaurant employees. They are friendly, easy to chat with, great storytellers, eager to share stories and history of Bar Harbor. The interesting part was meeting people who had either moved back to Bar Harbor after being gone for many years or those who come up for the summer and go back home to places like Ohio and Florida for the non-tourist season. Actually it sounds like a wonderful post-retirement to me!
The summer staff seemed to cover a wide spectrum of ages: post high school and college students to retirees. Overall, they share a love and affection for Bar Harbor and the Acadia National Park area. After spending only 5 days there, I can see the reason for their affection. The friendliness alone of the townsfolks will bring me back to Bar Harbor – but the landscape of Mt. Desert – in particular Acadia National Park will occupy my thoughts and dreams for a while.
The area that it seems many tourists do not get to is the “quiet side” of the Island: Bass Harbor, Tremont, West Tremont, Seal Cove – the home of the lobstermen and scallopmen that supply the food for the restaurants on Mt. Desert Island. In reading local papers, it seems that like the family farms of the midwest, there is pressure from large fishing companies to take over the lobster business; add to this the changing and for now, decreasing amount of cod and haddock – and the new wild card – climate change. The traditional fisheries in this area may be impacted in ways that we cannot quite imagine. But the fishermen are starting to see the changes coming. This may be a quick and simplistic overview. At the same time, we in the heartland need to heed the impacts on fish that we have shipped here … and maybe later this will lead to some thoughts on economic development … in between my memories of the wonderful people of Mt. Desert Island and the incredible hiking terrain …