As we rapidly approach a new season, we are reminded that folks here on Mount Desert Island often seem to have a love/hate relationship with tourists. We can’t wait for them to leave in the fall, and we can’t wait for them to arrive again in the spring.
We hate being forced to drive slowly behind them during the summer; we hate not being able to find a parking spot in Bar Harbor; we hate the crowds on some trails, along Ocean Drive and in the grocery stores; we worry about the damage they might cause to our fragile ecology; we ridicule the t-shirt shops that also sell red, flocked lobsters on a string; we complain about late-night noise in our villages; and we wonder how to accommodate unexpected visits from long-lost friends and acquaintances.
But we love the boost tourists give to our economy; we love the summer employment opportunities for our high school and college students; we love the number and variety of great restaurants available to us during "the season"; we love the world class music programs and live theater; we love the opportunity to reunite with friends and family; we enjoy seeing some of the world’s most famous cruise ships anchored in Bar Harbor; we are excited to join a whale watch; and we thrive on all the activity of the summer months after a long, cold winter.
The fact is that tourism indeed can be a double edged sword. However, if properly managed and controlled, we can continue to enjoy all of its aspects that we love while minimizing those that we hate. Tourism has been a central part of MDI for the past 100 years and likely will be for the next 100 years. All of us who care about, live in and earn a living from this special place need to constantly work together in a spirit of cooperation and understanding to ensure that tourism is a positive force, not a negative one.