2017-08-04 / Front Page

Shoreline access: opinions, habits sought

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

The Harbors Committee has been tasked with looking at public shore access points around town and updating the Coastal Waters and Harbors Ordinance and could be recommending to change where boats access the water at Kettle Cove State Park. (Michael Kelley photo) The Harbors Committee has been tasked with looking at public shore access points around town and updating the Coastal Waters and Harbors Ordinance and could be recommending to change where boats access the water at Kettle Cove State Park. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – Cape Elizabeth is known to many for its scenic coastline, but members of the newly formed Harbors Committee want to know how the public accesses that shoreline and how the town may better that access in the future.

In mid- July, the committee launched an online survey that asks residents how important public shore access is, how often they visit the shore during summer and offseason, where they go, what activities draw them to Cape Elizabeth beaches and shorelines and how those experiences could be improved.

Harbors Committee Chairman James Casey said as of July 27, two weeks into the survey, nearly 140 individuals had responded. The survey will stay up, he guessed, until at least the end of August.

“I’ll make that determination as I look at the trend lines,” he said.

Casey said there are plenty of places to access to shore, but the town doesn’t control most of them and relies on agreements with the state or other groups for public access.

“When you think about access, (the town) provides access at places like Fort Williams, which is owned by the town. Many of the access areas, in terms of visitor access, is provided by the state like at Kettle Cove or Crescent Beach. Cape Elizabeth Land Trust has several locations: Pond Cove and Trundy Point,” Casey said. “In looking at it that way, (access provided by the town) is pretty limited. However, the agreements we have with the state and land trust are very long term.”

Casey said there are a number of sites that offer boat moorings, but access to those sites – Maiden Cove or Casino Beach – are limited “because of deeded property rights”

“That makes it difficult and pretty limited where residents can go,” he said.

Since work got started in January, the committee, which next meets Aug. 15, has visited the shore access points around town and met with state and local officials about how to make public beach access improvements. One option that has been discussed is shifting boat access point at Kettle Cove 50 or so yards further up the road due to erosion and drainage concerns at the current site.

“Maintenance is constant. Every time there is a big storm, there are erosion there,” Casey said.

Another group the committee has been working closely with as it forms its recommendations is Cape Elizabeth Fishermen Alliance, which has made several proposals the Harbors Committee will take under advisement.

“It is important they share their views with the committee,” Casey said. “It’s really critical we get all the input we can from them as we make our recommendations for improvement.”

The Harbors Committee, formed in late 2016, also includes Stephen Culver, Susan Farady and town councilors Caitlin Jordan and Katharine Ray, was tasked with reviewing the town’s nearly 30-year-old Coastal Waters and Harbors Ordinance. In addition, they were asked to meet with state officials to determine public access points near Kettle Cove and Crescent Beach State Park and update maps indicating potential spots for public boat moorings. The committee was also asked to inventory public water access points and assist with updating the marine resources section of the comprehensive plan.

Cape Elizabeth Town Manager Matthew Sturgis, who has sat in on some of the committee meetings, is impressed with the work done by the group so far.

“This is a great committee that is trying to provide a strategic plan regarding our long-term plan for water access,” Sturgis said.

Sturgis said the goal of the committee’s work is aimed at meeting the concern he has heard from residents about water access, but also provide an opportunity to make sure the harbors ordinance is a relevant one.

The Coastal Waters and Harbors Ordinance was adopted in 1989 and last updated in 2005. Sturgis said the goal of reviewing the ordinance is to make sure its meets the needs of today’s community instead of “what might have been the paradigm from the last time it was looked at.”

Casey said the exiting ordinance “was well written and well researched,” and although the community hasn’t changed drastically since it went into place, an update may still be in order.

“A good part of it is still in force. It has almost been 30 years, but not a lot has changed. The population hasn’t really changed. The access hasn’t dramatically changed,” he said.

The survey can be found at (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Harbors).

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.


The Cape Elizabeth Harbors Committee encourages the public to take a survey regarding the town’s shoreline. The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ Harbors.

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