The Schoodic Loop Road. FILE PHOTO

Marine center’s closure means no showers for Schoodic campers

WINTER HARBOR — Changes have been underway at the former Schoodic Marine Center on Sargent Street since last year, including the closure of the marine center and the arrival of a new tenant. 

The Schoodic Institute opened the marine center in 2016 as a visitor hub with laundry and shower services specifically aimed at campers staying 1.6 miles away at the Schoodic Woods Campground.

Schoodic Institute President and Chief Executive Officer Nicholas Fisichelli said that the marine center was seen as an opportunity to “enable marine science and education, foster visitor experience and contribute to the community well-being.”

After trying to find a partner to help manage day-to-day operations of the facility, the decision was made to shut down the marine center last year.

“It was a really hard decision for us to do,” Fisichelli said. “We recognize the benefits that the marina was bringing to the community.” 

He said managing the marine center and Schoodic Institute was a large undertaking, and the decision to end the marine center’s lease with Pettegrow Properties was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of whether visitors would travel to the park.

New tenant JBR Maine, LLC, took up shop last August.

The bait and lobster wholesaler signed its lease with Pettegrow Properties and occupies parts of the 9-acre property, including two boat buildings and the building where the Schoodic Marine Center operated its laundry and shower services. 

Downeast Windjammer Cruises, LLC, which also operates at the Sargent Street wharf, initially leased its space from the Schoodic Marine Center but now leases directly from Pettegrow Properties. It has continued its five daily roundtrip ferry rides to Bar Harbor.

Acadia Puffin Cruise, owned by Tricia Brown, also continues to operate on the wharf.

Additionally, the Island Explorer bus service will still operate its route to the wharf, providing transportation that helps connect tourists and ferry-riders with attractions in Winter Harbor.

Brittany Willis, who owns JBR Maine with business partners Rick Whitten and Jordan Mazzetta, noted that another change for the community since JBR took up shop, besides the closure of the laundry and shower services, is that the property is “not a marina anymore.” Members of the public may no longer keep boats and dinghies at the wharf. JBR encourages boaters to utilize the town pier instead.

The business partners started the company in 2019 and now have locations in Phippsburg, South Gouldsboro, Hancock and Harpswell. 

Willis said fishermen are often faced with limited options when it comes to purchasing bait.

“We really saw a need in that area specifically,” Willis said of acquiring the Winter Harbor location.

“JBR’s main goal is to increase waterfront access for commercial fishermen and to introduce more competition for both lobster and bait so they can more effectively manage and grow their businesses,” she said. “I think that’s been very well received by the fishing community in that area.”

State Rep. Billy Bob Faulkingham (R-Winter Harbor), who is also a commercial fisherman, is part of the Winter Harbor Lobster Co-op, but has purchased bait from JBR Maine previously at its South Gouldsboro location. 

“It’s going to be nice to have the bait available,” Faulkingham said. 

Scott Knowles, a fisherman in Winter Harbor, said having another buyer in the town is a good thing.

“Competition keeps businesses honest,” he said.

Captain Steve Pagels, owner and manager of Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines, said the new tenants “have been good to work with.” However, the Schoodic Institute’s decision to terminate the lease came as a bit of a shock. 

“There was a lot of … encouragement and offers of assistance through business members, [Downeast Windjammer Cruise Lines] included, as well as community members as how to address and work through some of those financial constraints [the Schoodic Institute] had,” Pagels said. “[There was] certainly a lot of desire and effort to keep that going.”

Pagels said he understood why Pettegrow Properties needed to find another leaseholder in JBR Maine while acknowledging the property’s shift from a public facility to a more commercial one.

“We would love to see these amenities available,” Fisichelli said of the laundry and shower services. “I think there is a business opportunity for local entrepreneurs.”

Acadia National Park Public Affairs Specialist Christie Anastasia noted that none of Acadia’s campgrounds, including Schoodic Woods, offers shower services, in order to provide opportunities for local businesses. 

Katie Daigle, supervising ranger at Schoodic Woods Campground, said campers miss the quick access to a shower and place to do laundry.

“So far, people have been really disappointed,” she said. 

Brown from Acadia Puffin Cruise echoed that sentiment.

“The laundry and the showers were a great asset to the town and campground,” she said. 

Rebecca Alley

Rebecca Alley

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Rebecca is the Schoodic-area reporter and covers the towns of Eastbrook, Franklin, Hancock, Lamoine, Sorrento, Sullivan, Waltham, Winter Harbor and Trenton. She lives in Ellsworth with her husband and baby boy who was joyously welcomed in June 2020. Feel free to send tips and story ideas to [email protected]

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