Addressing the Threat of Limited Access
Keeping the Coast Open to All
Maine Coast Heritage Trust is addressing threats to the Maine coast through the largest coastal conservation Campaign in Maine’s history.
“Back when I started clamming 45 years ago, there were 15 or so places where clammers could access flats in Brunswick. Now, there are just a few.” — David Toothaker
Up and down the coast it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to create more public access to the coast.
Longstanding handshake deals between waterfront homeowners and their neighbors will not stand the test of time. As shorefront property becomes increasingly expensive, it’s imperative that we seize opportunities now to protect land and create permanent public access to the coast.
Protecting coastal access for fishermen
In 2006, The Island Institute, with support from numerous other organizations, led a study to catalogue the amount of working waterfront access along the coast of Maine.
The study, “The Last 20 Miles,” found that less than 1% of the coast offers public water access points for both commercial and recreational use. Put another way, along Maine’s approximately 5,300-mile coastline, only 20 miles* are designated working waterfront.
Over the past decade, MCHT and other land trusts have actively reached out to fishermen, local fishing committee members, councilors, and municipalities to help identify and protect key access sites—particularly for clammers and marine worm diggers.
Through this Campaign, MCHT is working to protect more than 80 acres on Woodward Point in Brunswick, a peninsula in Brunswick flanked by mud flats at low tide. Its protection would guarantee access for fishermen and protect the water quality of the New Meadows River. Local clammers and oyster farmers have voiced their support for the project.
In 2017, MCHT helped the town of Lubec take its first steps towards creating a safe harbor for fishermen and recreational boaters by helping the town protect shorefront property that will be the site of a new working harbor. MCHT also assisted the town in securing Land for Maine’s Future funding for the project.
Protecting coastal access for the general public
Fishermen aren’t the only ones feeling the crunch. Most who live, work, and play on the Maine coast have encountered a “no trespassing” sign where they’ve long skipped rocks, walked along the water, or put in a kayak.
In addition to creating permanent access to the coast for commercial use, MCHT is working to create more coastal access for all by protecting shorefront property, opening it to the public, and seeking opportunities to create boat launches and other water access points for the general public.
In Owls Head, MCHT and the town are working together to create a shorefront park with a parking lot and public hand-carry boat launch, which will allow for improved boat access for locals and visitors and open the door for federal dredging funds. This future park will be a stone’s throw from Monroe Island Preserve, a 220-acre island conserved for public access in 2018.
Also in 2018, MCHT created a large mainland preserve on the Weskeag Marsh in Thomaston; conserved Bailey’s Point in Lubec, which will create water access for fishermen and the general public alike; and added its 11th public preserve to an archipelago between Stonington and Isle au Haut with the acquisition of Pell Island. This is just a small sample of the dozens of projects recently completed and now underway.
*Statewide access length was determined by calculating an average coastline length per access point. After measuring the length of coastline of a representative sample of points along the coast, researchers used an average of 100 ft. / access point to extrapolate coastline measurements statewide