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Business and Economy

A Nova Scotia community eagerly awaits the return of ferry service from Maine this week

The CAT ferry was meant to commence sailings between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor, after a year of construction delays.
Robert F. Bukaty
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AP
The CAT ferry between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and Bar Harbor.

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Mayor Pam Moon has a deep personal attachment to the seaborne connections between her town and the state of Maine.

"Actually, my grampy was mayor in the 50s and 60s, 70s. And, you know, the ferry services were coming over then, he brought the Blue Nose over the first time," she recalls.

Mood herself has been mayor in Yarmouth for the last decade. For the last four years, she has been lamenting the lack of a high-speed ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia.

That service resumes on Thursday, when the CAT runs between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth. Mood spoke with Morning Edition host Irwin Gratz about the visitors her city has missed.

This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

Pam Mood
Elise Amendola
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AP
Pam Mood, Mayor of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, christens the Nova Star cruise ferry during a ceremony in Boston, Monday, May 12, 2014.

Pam Moon: We love people, we love our visitors. We love the busyness. We love the energy around tourism. But you know, economically it's been tremendously difficult. As you can imagine, we are you know, just like in Maine, the fishery is our mainstay. So we put that number one but very much equal to that is the tourism sector. And without visitors, there is no tourism. So we have the chance of businesses closing, there's no certainly no lineups in the restaurants. That's not just because of the ferry obviously, that's COVID as well. So double whammy for the last few years. It's been really, really difficult.

Irwin Gratz: Yeah. What will people who have visited before see in Yarmouth?

They'll see a very different community, they will see community that's full of life, they will see vibrant colors in the downtown. We actually, the town, just won a national award for communities in bloom. So it's welcoming, it's warm, it's colorful, it's actually exactly who we are as a people.

You know, I don't have to tell you that the provincial funding for Bay Ferries these past few years has been controversial. Why was it so important to pay the company when the service wasn't running?

Well, so you don't lose it. I guess it's sort of like, you know, people weren't driving during COVID, but you don't stop by the upkeep on the highways. And I've always from day one referred to that link between Nova Scotia and Maine, it's an international highway. You may not be paying for the infrastructure as in, you know, asphalt, but you have to pay for what gets you from point A to point B. You know, anytime you spend money and people don't understand it, it's controversial, and I understand that. But gosh, just the sheer thought of losing that ferry and that link, it just, whoo! It's a little bit scary for the mayor here.

Of course, one of the things people will see is renovated terminals at both ends. Talk a little bit about what you've done at Yarmouth.

We had to do a complete retrofit, the pill booths where people come in and you know, customs greets them. Canadian Border Services had some changes, big changes, that they needed made to keep up with, you know, I mean it's 2022. I think the terminal was built in the 50s. So we now see it in great big letters 'Ferry to Maine,' and it's just, we've never had that before. So the big things, the little things, you know, the parking lot, all those pieces, it's taken a tremendous amount of work and we won't talk about how much money it cost because it wasn't cheap, but it's worth every penny just to see our folks from over your way coming in.

OK, you've given us some clues already, but how excited are you to be getting the ferry service back?

Oh my gosh. If I didn't have the camera right here I'd probably get up and do a happy dance story and you could take that probably and sell it. We just are so excited. The whole community is buzzing. We can't wait for those first people to get off. We often say, the town of Yarmouth is the welcome mat. And, you come in, we're going to make you feel comfortable and welcome. And I just cannot wait.

Why do I think that you will be there when the first boat pulls in?

I'm going to tell you, when it pulls in, I bet you the people looking out the window are going to say, 'Who's that wild lady doing a tap dance on the street?' That'll be the mayor.