Thursday, March 6, 2014

Public Access Guides for Maine

The oceans are a public resource!  Awesome!  WE THE PEOPLE own them.

Unfortunately, getting to them can be a bit of a headache -- especially in Maine, where property laws differ from other coastal states.  Along with Massachusetts (which, if you recall your American history, Maine was part of for a long while), Maine's waterfront property owners possess land down to the low tide line -- in other words, they own the entire intertidal zone.  This isn't true in most states, where waterfront properties only extend to the high tide line, and the intertidal zone is a public resource.  That means "private beaches" really do exist in Maine, but are only a fantasy of the wealthy everywhere else -- even Malibu, Long Island, and Miami. 

Residents of Harpswell are fighting hard to prevent waterfront landowners from taking away their traditional easement to Cedar Beach.

My least favorite kind of sign.  (Kettle Cove)

THIS is why we should all be supporting our local land trusts! (Biddeford Pool)
So what's an ocean lover to do?  Well, you could pull out the old "fishing, fowling, or navigating" trick.  That's the exception to the private beach exclusion.  The law states anyone engaged in these activities can access the intertidal zone despite the howls of protest from the rich.  But really, is it worth it?  Probably not, since you'd have to explain yourself to the police more likely than not.  

The alternative is to get to know the many sites in the state that offer public access to coastal land.  And just our luck, the state's Coastal Program has just published some handy little guides to public access!  Again, our tax dollars at work!  I just picked mine up at my favorite independent book store, and I'm starting to make some lists of places to visit as the days grow longer and the ice melts here in the upper right hand corner of the country.  (It's going to happen soon.  I swear it will.  Spring WILL arrive.)

Not only do the books have over 700 sites to check out (with maps and directions), they highlight other cool stuff -- the Downeast Fisheries Trail, the geology of Maine's sand beaches, and how the state is protecting working waterfronts.  

Where shall we go this summer?  How about the Salt Bay Heritage Trail in Damariscotta?  The Huber Preserve on Vinalhaven?  Colony Beach in Kennebunkport?  The possibilities are endless!  (Warn Damon; get the dog ready; I'm making my list!)


  1. Definitely going to pick up a copy - Thanks for the information!

  2. Thanks guys. I think a ton of folks will find these useful! If spring EVER arrives.

  3. Thanks for the post,! I was finally able to get to Maine Coast this weekend and bought the set. Soon spring will be here and we'll be back exploring Maine's waters!

    1. Even though there's freezing rain descending now, these are nice to flip through and dream of warmer days! I have a few dog ears on mine, places I want to go to!

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