2015-01-16 / Letters

Tradition of public access worth the fight

To the editor:

As we sit on the brink of a new year, we look forward to a bright future for our town, Kennebunkport, and the state of Maine.

It is also a time to reflect on the work accomplished over the past year. That is why we applaud the recent state Supreme Court decision that now gives us the chance to prove that future generations will enjoy the same rights of public access on Goose Rocks Beach that previous generations have enjoyed for over a century.

By granting our request to reconsider its earlier decision, the Maine Supreme Court is allowing us to return to Superior Court to make our case, once again, that a prescriptive easement has been established covering the beach — in other words, that the public has the right to be there. We successfully proved it once in Superior Court and we are confident we can prove it again.

That we pursue this case to its rightful conclusion is of dire importance to the town of Kennebunkport as well as to every other coastal town or place where a tradition of public access is colliding with new ideas and intentions for land use.

Maine has a tradition of public access to its natural attractions of shorelines, lakefronts and forests. If that tradition is allowed to erode, it will change the complexion of the entire state. It will upend local economies, and it will lead us to a future where a day at the beach is reserved solely for those who can afford to own it.

Vacationland will have little meaning to both residents and visitors if they are barred from the lands they came to see.

Kennebunkport is home to over 3,700 people who value its incredible beauty, the natural assets and the small town feel. Almost 2,000 of them acquire resident beach permits to enjoy Goose Rocks Beach. Over 650 property owners have invested in homes and cottages along Goose Rocks Beach with the assumption that they can take a walk on the beach or a swim in its waters.

Kennebunkport also has a thriving seasonal economy, with tourism supporting over 120 businesses and employing 1,000 people. This equates to almost 70 percent of all jobs in town. People like to come here, in part, because of our two miles of beautiful, accessible, beach at Goose Rocks.

Outdoor recreation in Maine generates more than $210 million in annual state tax revenue, supports more than 48,000 jobs, and accounts for more than 7 percent of the gross state product. If public access to the outdoors is restricted, those numbers will only shrink. Can Maine afford that?

It’s understandable that some people may be weary of this issue. The board of selectmen is striving to expedite the resolution of this lawsuit in a way that will save both time and money for the town, as well as for the plaintiffs. We have given direction to the town attorney to explore all options that will conclude the matter in as expeditious a manner as is reasonably possible.

The town has been a defendant in this lawsuit. Our goal has always been to reach resolution with our neighbors so that we may all go back to enjoying a beautiful summer day at Goose Rocks in peace.

We hope the plaintiffs are giving their legal counsel similar direction and are open to any opportunities that are mutually beneficial in order to bring closure to this matter.

We urge citizens to be patient and understand that pursuing a resolution favorable to the town, the state and our collective future is worth the time and effort that we are expending now.

Allen Daggett, Sheila Matthews-Bull, Stuart Barwise, Edward Hutchins, Patrick Briggs
Kennebunkport Board of Selectmen

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