ROCKLAND — A clash between state managers and islanders over ferry terminal policies has been resolved, with the Department of Transportation putting its proposal to change some of the parking and line-up protocols on hold.

But despite the status quo’s remaining in place, many Vinalhaven and North Haven residents are wary about the future.

Ferry Service Manager John Anders wanted to implement stricter rules about lining up vehicles for ferries, such as ending the long-standing practice of keeping a place-holder vehicle in line. It’s a strategy islanders use to free up their primary vehicle to shop, take children to medical appointments or travel some distance from Rockland. They then return to the line and move the place-holder vehicle and ensure passage back to the island. A place-holder vehicles may be an old “beater” kept at the ferry terminal, or a friend might park his or her car in line to assist the islander who is completing mainland errands.

Another policy change would have mandated that drivers be in their vehicles 30 minutes before the departure of the ferry, rather than the current 15 minutes. And the DOT proposal would have prohibited the current rule that allows a car to be parked up to 24 hours in the line.

In an interview, Anders and Rick Dubois, DOT’s director of multimodal operations, defended their proposal, but admitted the steps leading up to its planning implementation were handled poorly. The new policies would have taken effect May 19, but were scrapped after islanders expressed strong opposition.

Both said the proposed changes were conceived as a way to make the ferry terminal more efficient. Over the course of a year, 500,000-plus people move through the terminal, they said, where the state-run ferries connect to North Haven, Vinalhaven and Matinicus. The ferry service has an annual operating budget of $9.6 million, with $4.8 million coming from the state highway fund and the rest from fares and fees.

“The primary motivation is to just improve the efficiency,” Anders said in a late-May interview. The overflow from the line has caused problems, he said, made worse by adding some longer-term parking spaces.

Traffic has increased, he added, with “more than normal” observed during the recent winter months.

Under the current regulations, “People are allowed to put their car in line at 7 a.m. for a 5 p.m. ferry,” Anders said. Some even travel to one of the islands as a passenger, leaving their car in the line, and return the next day, achieving free parking, he added.

A ferry advisory board, which was created many years ago by state law, meets every other month. Members are appointed by island towns served by the state ferry service—Swan’s Island, Frenchboro, Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven— and give feedback to the managers.

Anders and Dubois said the new rules were aired at January and March meetings of the advisory board, but according to Dubois, members were not helpful.

“We weren’t really getting substantive feedback from the advisory board,” he said.

Marjorie Stratton, Vinalhaven town manager and the island’s representative to the advisory board, rejected that explanation.

“I think it’s more a matter of they didn’t want to hear what we had to say,” she said. “We didn’t want to make a lot of changes [to existing policies]. If that’s not substantive”¦”

Stratton, and other islanders commenting on social media, have countered that the line is a problem in the summer weeks only, and that most of the current rules are not being enforced.

Stratton also disputed the charge that the 24-hour rule is being abused.

“The disappointing thing is, he’s perpetuating this us vs. them situation,” she said.

Islanders were upset that the memo outlining the proposed changes had an effective date of May 19, yet there had been no apparent effort by the ferry service to communicate what was coming. Anders said the May 19 date had been put on the document, labeled “draft,” in January, and that there was no intent to implement the policy with such short notice.

Islanders are skeptical.

“I think it was good they got so much pushback,” said Stratton.

Phil Crossman, who owns and operates the Tidewater Motel on Vinalhaven, wrote Anders while the proposal still appeared to be under consideration. He noted there were “no public notices posted around town and invitations for public inquiry are curiously absent.”

Crossman also asserted that the draft was worded forcefully, and that its references to towing vehicles deemed to be in violation of the new policy “is a hostile and unproductive tack to take.”

Crossman was blunt in his criticism of the proposal.

“To suggest that a busy island mother with a kid or two in tow, or an elderly island resident “¦ will be unable to do what we have done for years but instead must take her chances by rushing to the last boat only to find she was too far back in line, can’t take her car out of line or put a substitute in its place, but must instead leave her car in line for the first boat the next day, take a cab to a motel, get up early and hope to get a cab to the first boat hoping again to get on  the departing ferry is not a good example of how to ‘serve the island people’ which was precisely and accurately what you told me was your first priority during our meeting a couple of months ago,” he wrote.

Joe Stone, North Haven’s town manager, also wrote Anders on behalf of the town selectmen, suggesting islanders, the primary customers, would not benefit from any new efficiency; that there is not a history of safety problems; and that the ferry service should have foreseen the problems caused by losing space by expanding the overnight parking area.

“The abolition of line-cars and the rationale for that abolition represents the triumph of table-top planning  over the traditional and successful systems evolved by the islanders themselves, who are the paying customers,” Stone wrote.

He also included a number of suggestions for improving the system, as requested by Anders.

Anders continued to defend the thinking behind the proposal.

“The idea was to turn the ferry line up back into the ferry line up,” rather than a de facto parking lot, he said.

One possible solution would be to change the reservation system, which now requires they be made 30 days in advance. A mother with a sick child could not do so, Anders agreed, and said 24 hour advance reservations might be added.

Safety concerns were not the primary motivation for the changes, he added, but he has heard of many near-misses in the parking lot.

Dubois said the site, one of the busiest transportation hubs north of Portland, is hemmed in by the water on two sides and by Route 1 on the west, making traffic management difficult.

Both Stone and Stratton said expanding the advisory board’s membership and role might help avoid a similar conflict.

Reviewing the board’s legislative charter, Stone said it had “a great deal more power and latitude than previously thought.”