Sheridan Steele, CEO and president of the Schoodic Marine Center, said visitors can count on improvements at the marina next season, among them restrooms. Ellsworth American Photo by Jacqueline Weaver

Schoodic Marine Center upgrades announced

WINTER HARBOR — Visitors to the Schoodic Marine Center on Sargent Street can expect at least one noticeable improvement next year — restrooms.

There also might be better moorings and enhanced signage directing visitors who are arriving at and departing from the marina, said Sheridan Steele, CEO and president of the Schoodic Marine Center.

“Restrooms are probably the most immediate need,” he said. “We’re hoping we might have something by next summer. They will probably go where the temporary displays are now.”

The exhibit of whale artifacts is located in the building on the right-hand side of the property as the marina is approached from Sargent Street.

The Schoodic Marine Center, which is affiliated with the Schoodic Institute within Acadia National Park, now provides porta-toilets.

Other improvements likely to happen sooner rather than later, said Steele, are installation of a handicapped access gangway on the pier, paving the parking area and moving the L.L. Bean bus stop to the marina entrance.

The Schoodic Marine Center has held two public meetings about proposals for the marina, the latest on Oct. 21 at Hammond Hall.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good ideas from individuals and organizations,” Steele said. “I see this with multiple partners.”

Among the likely partners are OceansWide summer camp; College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor; Frenchman Bay Conservancy; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other conservation and community groups.

Steele said the issue in moving forward is funding.

“We’re trying to improve the marina facilities at the same time, but that doesn’t come quick either,” he said. “Right now, it’s all donations.”

He said the Schoodic Marine Center hopes to secure foundation grants to carry out many of the plans.

The Schoodic Institute’s board leased the marina to ensure water access for the institute and transportation across Frenchman Bay from Winter Harbor to Bar Harbor and back, Steele said.

The center has a 20-year lease, renewable for 20 years, with the Pettegrow family of Trenton, which owns the marina.

He said residents worried the marina might become part of Acadia National Park should have no worries.

“The marina will never become part of Acadia National Park,” Steele said. “The park has no interest whatsoever in seeing it within the park.”

Steele said the center would like a food vendor in town to step in and offer to operate a food cart at the marina so that the marina is not competing with local businesses.

Showers and laundromats also have been discussed, but Steele said the board is still hoping someone local will provide those services — particularly for campers in the new Schoodic Woods Campground.

Steele said improvements are needed in signage on Route 186 heading into Winter Harbor that direct visitors to the marina and ferries.

Visitors also need directions about which direction to take once they reach the end of Sargent Street at Main Street when looking for food, shops and other services, he said.

A comprehensive plan will be ready by the end of 2017, he said.

Currently the smaller of the out buildings at the marina is being used for bicycle rentals, ferry tickets and whale artifacts once displayed at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor.

Steele said the discussions about exhibit space are for the largest building on property, which is to the left of the marina when approaching from Sargent Street and near the water.

“The idea is to turn it into an education center,” he said.

Prepared materials on plans for the marina refer to the building as The Schoodic Marine Discovery Center.

Steele said one proposed exhibit is life-sized wood carvings of seabirds, which would require funding.

Another concept that held appeal, Steele said, was to use the sloping area in front of the large building for an outdoor exhibit of marine life in various tidal zones.

“Two things we really want to incorporate and are still working on is local fishing history related to Frenchman Bay and the Gulf of Maine and engage with fishermen and local historians on that,” he said.

Another strong element, he said, would be science, such as sea level rise, changes in acidification of the water and the implications of both.

“I envision that as a rotating exhibit area,” Steele said.

He said the Schoodic Marine Center would like to offer more on the water experiences for visitors, such as nature cruises, on research boats

There are proposals for the Schoodic Marine Discovery Center for a touch tank with live marine life and video feeds taken with OceansWide’s ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles).

There also are plans for outdoor space for play and relaxation and an information board about local sights and services.

Among suggestions made at an earlier meeting at Hammond Hall were to put out a request for proposals for winter storage of boats at the Schoodic Marine Center.

The business would need a hydraulic boat hauler and would haul, block and store the boats after Columbus Day weekend to May 15.

The Schoodic Marine Center would, as proposed, receive a percentage of the gross revenue from this service.

Those attending the first meeting also suggested a local fundraising effort to repair the small hoist on the pier and allow usage by local fishermen so that the Schoodic Marine Center can stem the decline of available working waterfront.

It was noted that letting fishermen use the hoist would benefit summer visitors who would enjoy watching a working fishing boat loading and offloading gear.

Those in attendance at the meeting also stressed including fishermen as well as marine scientists in marine research projects at the Schoodic Marine Center and the Schoodic Institute.

Steele said plans for the former marine store closest to Sargent Street are not yet decided because it needs extensive repairs.

Steele said the next step will be for him to meet with potential partners individually and then schedule another public meeting in the spring of 2017.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Jacqueline's beat covers the eastern Hancock County towns of Lamoine through Gouldsboro as well as Steuben in Washington County. She was a reporter for the New York Times, United Press International and Reuters before moving to Maine. She also publicized medical research at Yale School of Medicine and scientific findings at Yale University for nine years.[email protected]
Jacqueline Weaver

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