The purchase of a former boatyard in Southwest Harbor will give the Cranberry Isles inshore parking, and one town official hopes it will help maintain the two islands’ way of life.
First Selectman Richard Beal predicted the three-acre parcel, the former Jarvis Newman yard in the Manset area of Southwest Harbor, will ease the lives of both summer and year-round residents. Parking has been a perennial problem for islanders, who rent 123 spaces at a Northeast Harbor garage that become available “when somebody dies.”
Islanders rent overflow spaces at a Catholic church parking lot on Joy Street in Northeast Harbor. But it is a mile-long walk from the dock, and may not be available in the future.
The new lot, when built, will provide 137 parking spaces, along with two large buildings, plus a boat ramp, a 160-foot dock and three floats. Cranberry Isles residents voted in favor of buying the boatyard property for $2 million, from developer Pritham Singh. Singh’s wife is retaining a piece of the parcel with a house on it. The sale was expected to take place by the end of September, using various loans and grants.
Some $400,000 is budgeted for developing the lot. Those figures contrast with the $190 annual fee for each space at Dana Haynes’s Northeast Harbor garage (about $24,000 total) and the $1,500 paid to the church for use of its lot.
Great Cranberry Island and Little Cranberry – also known as Islesford – have seen the year-round population, now 128, drop by 100 people over the past decade. The Cranberry Isles Realty Trust has had some success in attracting year-round residents, who generally have the choice of lobstering or working in the boatyard. Jarvis Newman and Ed Gray operate Newman and Gray, boatbuilders, on Great Cranberry Island.
“There is really no choice” about buying the in-shore land,” said boatbuilder Ed Gray, who serves on the town’s land acquisitions committee. He said the islands’ seasonal population of about 400 people park their cars wherever they can, including in the yard of a house he owns in Northeast Harbor.
Great Cranberry has one general store and a gift shop. Little Cranberry is home to a museum, the town school, a pottery shop and the Islesford Dock Restaurant.
Building more parking spaces will ease the parking problem, but Beal acknowledged there are too many cars on Mount Desert Island, which is connected by road to the mainland. “Yes, there are more and more cars. Getting here is a problem,” he said. He praised Mount Desert’s public transportation system, Island Explorer, whose buses use less polluting fuel.
Beal said he bought a fixer-upper house on Great Cranberry Island in 1991 and spent seven years restoring it. An Ellsworth native, he attended Bowdoin College. He retired from the U.S. Navy and Litton Industries in California. He has given up his own car, he said. On Great and Little Cranberry Islands, nearly all year-round people have their own vehicles.