Bucks County Herald

Camille Granito Mancuso: Chatterbox

A view past the dream

There are many locations on our earth with a beauty, history and mystique that captivate and endure.

We have all been captivated by hypnotic photographs of them; some speak to us individually.

Two that have special meaning for me, are Bar Harbor, Maine, and Venice, Italy. Each now facing its own problems and determining its own destiny, they struggle for survival: economic, social and environmental.

Right now, in Bar Harbor and in Venice, more alike than one might think, residents are struggling to sustain viable revenue from tourism and maintain the infrastructure that provides it. Balancing those two factors and their affect on the quality of life for residents is creating animosity among those who live, work, govern or wish to visit there.

Each city struggles with the ever increasing number of tourists and the demands they create, as well as how best to maintain tourism without sacrificing the goose that lays the golden egg. Threatening an already precarious balance, now cruise ships deposit, during peak season, nearly 6,000 guests per day onto the shores of Bar Harbor, according to the New York Times, and nearly 30,000 per day into Venice, according to Forbes magazine.

The first time I saw Bar Harbor, I was smitten to be sure. Anyone who loves the sea, the sky and mountains tall enough to be majestic yet low enough to climb within five hours, will fall in love with it.

The first time I saw Venice was one of the most magical, dreamlike moments in my life. Far better than any of even the most breathtaking photographs or paintings ever, it is truly, as my California friend perfectly put it, “… other-worldly.”

There, one day, we heard a large commotion. We turned to see a cruise ship on the lagoon, just yards from the Doges Palace, dwarfing the buildings of the city. It wasn’t even a very large one, and yet we needed to lean back to see it all. Today, full-size ships are actually docking to disperse passengers at the city’s edge. They are taller than any structure, and it is heart-wrenching to see these goliaths looming over the ancient and colorful buildings that hold the mysteries of nearly two millennia of diverse cultures, and which currently shelter the modern day Venetians – a dwindling population the loss of whose culture would be more than mournful.

Both Bar Harbor and Venice, these very different yet equally amazing cities are sharing the same dilemma involving the goose, the golden eggs and the survival of residents in the way that will be advantageous to all, acceptable to most, and environmentally responsible.

Local government and residents have varying solutions for what can and/or should be done to mitigate damage and mediate divergent opinions. As usual, some people sadly advocate for the short-term, immediate gain, or think on personal levels, rather than doing what is best for all and in the big picture.

Bar Harbor is an awesome little town and numerous extended visits there have made me aware of what it can offer to tourists in conjunction with its exquisite, coastal and amazing national park. The residents must take into consideration how many tourists are too many, yet still make the most hay while the sun shines. It must also address the tragic fact that our current administration is planning to triple the admission to its main attraction, Acadia National Park, which will seriously limit the number of Americans who can afford to visit there. That impact on visitors will affect the local economy, impacting the critical determination the town must make on the cruise ship issue.

Venice is in a similar boat with both leadership’s interference and procrastination, and with the cruise ship issue. Additionally, water damage – which was long successfully navigated with great ingenuity – is greatly increased by intense water displacement from the ships. With water levels already rising due to climate change, there are maintenance issues that Venice’s shrinking population can’t handle. Its government, facing an ultimatum from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), bought time by claiming it will close the lagoon to the ships by 2022.

Perhaps solutions lie in: seriously restricting the number of tourists; banning ships from docking, transporting passengers from off-shore by small boat only; increasing fees to cruise lines; taking only their highest bid for any visitor privileges; or allowing only the highest bidding cruise line to disperse any visitors.

Bar Harbor and Venice are two cities too dreamy to endure any nightmares.



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