Town seeking options to keep beaches public

7:23 PM, Feb 18, 2014   |    comments
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YORK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- While it is far from beach weather we've been having lately, Ronald Nowell, Chairman of the York Board of Selectmen, is anxious about future access to the town's beaches.

"It takes one private property owner to stake out his property and put up a sign and a fence, it is as simple as that," stated Nowell.  "Any of those private property owners could fence off the sections of the beach, and there is not a thing we could do about it."

Nowell has been concerned about the situation for decades, but a recent ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court in favor of property owner's rights to limit access to Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunk has him looking for options to keep public access to the beaches in his community.

He says closing the beaches would not just be an inconvenience, but devastating to the local economy.

He says the town is already involved in a battle to restore access to the Cliff Walk, a path along the shore used by thousands each year, until a large section of it was blocked off by fences by two property owners.

"Who wants a common person walking across in front of their $5 million property? That's all it is about.  It is a type of class warfare," said Nowell.

He says the situation with the path is different because each property along the path has a clause in its deed that guarantees public access. 

He says the town will be meeting with its lawyers soon to determine how they will proceed to restore access to the path.  An overwhelming majority of voters approved creating a legal fund to fight the closure last year.

"Nobody ever thought, over the last 300 years, that somebody would block the shore path," Nowell explained, and says it is part of his reasoning to investigate the beach access issue.  "Nobody ever thought that, but they have."

He says the town has options, which may include buying the beaches, and so far he has not heard of any beach owner looking to block access, but says now is the time to start having that conversation.

The issue will be on agenda at the next town council meeting Monday February 24th at 7pm.


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