Mount Desert 365's Origin Story

By Kathy Miller

Dear Friends and Readers,

We are sometimes asked how and why this organization got started. Here is our origin story and some background on what guides our work.

In September 2016 a cruise ship anchored outside of Northeast Harbor and shuttled passengers to the dock to spend time in town. Some residents were concerned, seeing this as the cruise industry putting their foot in the door. They feared Northeast Harbor could someday become another busy cruise ship port. There were also real concerns about damage to the busy local fishing fleet. Community meetings were held and the Board of Selectmen received roughly 700 emails from residents opposed to allowing cruise ship visitations. The Marine Management Committee (MMC) recommended denying cruise ship/passenger docking at the marina. Attendance by the public at the November 7, 2016, Selectmen’s meeting was so great the meeting was moved to the Elementary School. There was strong support for the MMC’s recommendation against visitation, and it passed 5-0. Since then, both Southwest Harbor and Tremont have passed similar ordinances. Bar Harbor is considering making changes to its own cruise ship visitation policies to reduce the number of ships allowed each year in response to resident concerns.

However, during the deliberations, some businesses reported that the day the cruise ship was in town was their best day in a long time. Clearly, they needed more foot traffic to boost sales and perhaps even to stay afloat. It was that realization that inspired a group of people who had been meeting regularly for coffee to create the Mount Desert Economic Sustainability Initiative, or MDESI. Their efforts led to the founding of Mount Desert 365.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, MD365’s purpose is to foster a sustainable year-round community while preserving its natural environment. We developed our mission with guidance from the Town’s Comprehensive Plan, an advisory document reflecting the collective desired future of the Town. It is 135 pages long and states at the outset its intent is “to promote and sustain a diverse year-round community, by managing change of Mount Desert’s principal resources.” It investigates five interrelated issues – Community, Economics, Environment, Health & Recreation, and Civic Participation. It sets seven goals, then follows up with implementation strategies to achieve those goals.

Mount Desert 365’s mission embraces the Goals of the Comprehensive Plan, with greatest emphasis on the first three:

    • Population: To encourage growth in our year-round community that supports prosperity and sustainability.
    • Economy: To expand the local year-round economy to enhance the quality of life for Mount Desert’s citizens, seasonal residents, and visitors.
    • Housing: To promote a pattern of residential growth that sustains all aspects of our community and that is affordable for year-round residents.

Our official mission statement is:

Mount Desert 365 is a community-based organization dedicated to promoting long-term economic vitality of the town of Mount Desert, Maine, through expansion of sustainable year-round residential communities and economic revitalization of commercial districts.

We have defined our core values as follows, and believe they reflect those of the Comprehensive Plan:

    • Community Sustainability
      Community is at the heart of all we do. We believe that a community that thrives 365 days of the year benefits all of us.
    • Protecting our Natural Environment
      The mountains, waters, fields, and woods are an integral part of the community and precious assets that nurture us physically and spiritually. We have a responsibility to be good stewards and safeguard them for future generations.
    • Diversity Propels Innovation
      A complex weave of people in the community creates a vibrancy that can enhance our best features – creativity, resourcefulness, and integrity. The coming together of people living among us year-round, part-time, or visiting briefly adds texture and color to the community and creates an interdependence that can’t be denied. We believe the knowledge, skills, talents, and resources of each part of the community should be harnessed and lead to innovations for the benefit of all.
    • Inclusion is Essential
      A shared vision of the community’s future, combined with focused energy, strategic collaborations, and careful use of resources will guide our decisions.
    • We Strive for Excellence
      Building on the solid foundations of the generations before us to establish and preserve this community, we will endeavor to create opportunities to live and prosper that will stand the tests of time.

In future posts, we’ll share more from the Comprehensive Plan and delve into how it guides our decisions and planning. You can find the Comprehensive Plan on the Town website here.