Public Beach Access in Maine, New Court Case

no the issues are year round and not involving comfortably warm water. The issues are people camping between the low and high tide line and littering. Egregious chasing of shorebirds and snowy owls in the winter.This year has brought on an abundance of slobs.
The issues are almost never caused by kayakers.

Mother Nature has fun with lawns and concrete walls… Camp Ellis is a wreck.

Boating actually has little impact on beach uses in Wells and the beaches south of Portland

We have a FB group Maine Birds and have had to stop people from sharing their pics of wintering shoreland birds… There was a big flap over a rock wren and people went stomping all over private property to get to it… And the poor folks in Biddeford Pool have strangers all over their shoreside lawns and sands chasing snowy owls.

The plaintiffs in the case are… clammers seaweed harvesters and oyster farmers all of whom have an interest in the intertidal. Seaweed and oysters are a burgeoning industry . Lobster not so much actually.


Like a lot of issues, sometimes it takes a mix of remedies to work best for all concerned. Depending on the nature of the water way and the availability of public access, the way it sort of works around here, some water-side properties can and do omit the general public. In most cases there is plenty of public access so that land owners do not have to deal with slovenly people who all too often will come and leave their mess behind. Where the actual tidal ocean is the water, it is generally open to the public up to the high water line. Bays, Sounds and other properties that are not actually bordering the ocean itself will sometimes have claim to exclusive rights. Rivers can be a mix. Much of my paddling is on a river with a substantial tide. Luckily, there is sufficient public access to unoccupied islands, parks and other beaches that private lands adjacent don’t seem to be bothered by unwelcome intruders. There are a number of commercial owners that do seem to have the right to tell you to take a hike… I don’t know how the law looks at that, but I suspect if you are told to move on, you probably are better off to comply.

It appears that the reporting on the situation in Maine with the intertidal zone is at this point shifted from what l have been reading about in 29 years of local newspaper reports in warmer weather, and told about by kayaking professionals south and midcoast and seen when kayaking.

Incidents that pop to mind or that l have seen mostly have been about encounters between recreational kayakers and property owners, distinctly more in the south than in Midcoast. The issues with birders this last winter are new to me. But then again l started this thinking of kayaking. The birding incidents appear to have little kayaking linkage and are instead old fashioned land trespassing that may include the intertidal zone.

The seaweed harvesters are themselves somewhat of a controversial topic, more recent. Heard enough from all sides to know l don’t have an opinion there.

I have experienced this from both sides also since starting canoeing in the 70’s and then adding kayaking a few years ago. Years ago public access in Illinois and Indiana could be a problem with the way the older bridges were built. There were places but not many where you could launch where land owners didn’t care if you crossed their property. Then when the state started replacing the old steel truss bridges with concrete they also put in ditches next to the bridges that were easy to go up and down and were on the right of way of the road.
Both Illinois and Indiana have public right of way up to the average high water mark but that does not give you access across property owners land to get to the river. Years ago we had been using a property to take out with no problems then the property changed hands and we could no longer use the property. We looked around and found that about 100 feet downstream there was a good take out next to the bridge that was off that property and on the right of way of the county road. Problem solved for us and the land owner.
The property changed hands again in the fall of 2017, we bought the property. Beautiful spot property line to center of the river, normal flow gives a nice size beach then about a 10’ very steep bank up to the grassy area a couple acres. There are people that fish off the beach and some land on the beach and carry down to the access next to the bridge for take out. That is all good and legal so no problem. I built a set of stairs to go up and down the steep bank, they are not on public right of way and lead to the private part of the property. We have the place now posted including I put a no trespassing sign on the railing of the steps at the bottom.
Then we have the other people, thirty or forty feet of lawn torn up from spinning tires was nice. My favorite was when I went down to check something on our motor home that we keep there most of the summer. The place looked like a parking lot, they had just got there when I pulled up. I told them they could not park there that is why there are signs. They went across the river to park at a resturant that typically does not care, in fact you can access the river on that side. A little steep and longer path but fishermen do it all the time. Came back the next morning and they had went across our property after ripping the sign off the steps. That is not the only instance of damage so we have no more tolerance for trespassing. Jim.


I too have gone solidly on the side of protecting one’s property from trespassers. Not that I knowingly trespassed before, but now owning a nice chunk of land that for decades was trespassed through to access other land that was also not for public access, we began augmenting the existing fencing and gates and signs, and have added more locks. We have to constantly keep an eye on things, because with the ubiquitous unlimited spreading of often-wrong maps and other information, the potential for harm has exploded: there is always a fresh crop of both the clueless and the deliberate trespassers.

The problem is not specific to either water or paddlers. It is the growing attitude that the the general public is entitled to go anywhere they or their ancestors ever went, regardless of land status or the fact that present owners bought private property, fair and square.

Add to the entitlement attitude the Look At Me! I Was There! selfie-wielding peacockery all over the ‘net, and THEN the COVID-vacationers last year, and it sometimes feels like an invasion of the bored crawling all over anything that is “in the boonies” or at least not in a suburb. Both on land and water.

Last year and this year, our region and many other “rural” areas began getting ever greater numbers of people fleeing densely-populated areas, looking to buy property in a kneejerk reaction to the pandemic.

Just wait to see the fallout when they start biching about no high-speed Internet, dirt roads, no malls, little foofoo and fluffy getting eaten by wild critters, bears raiding the trash bins they are supposed to put out ONLY the morning of pickup (if any), mail delivery not available on the road they live on, “no streetlights” (SHEESH), etc etc.

Before making such a big, expensive, lifestyle-changing purchase/move, people need to SLOW DOWN, THINK, and let the pandemic-caused flight reaction pass. The last thing anybody wants is for the mobs to ruin the very things that brought them out.

In the case of waterfront owners allowing a few and occasional and leave-no-trace water travelers on the beach, the idiotic mobs will cause such indulgences to be revoked if at all possible.

Specific to oceanfront property, there were one or two places in WA where the owners had grandfathered rights to the entire beach down to the water, regardless of level. One of these places was a commercial campground with a great beach and even some surf. The fee they charged for day use was so reasonable I gladly paid it, because this beach was kept CLEAN (no litter, no dogs allowed on it), while the nearby public beach and campground drew more than a few visitors that were—call it what it is—dirtbags. That public beach was also gorgeous, but it was more crowded, and the dirtbag factor made some nondirtbaggies hesitate about parking or camping there.

Birders, ah…I have serious reservations about posting unusual sightings precisely for the reason stated.

Seems that birding has morphed from appreciation of wild nature to a competitive list-driven sport. At a birding festival, one woman told me that when she read about a rare sighting, she packed up her car and took off on a road trip to hurry to the location, in the middle of the night! This person was not a scientist following events to better understand the species. She was just caught up in checklist fever.

At another festival, I discovered it was sometimes better to get away from the group, because if I were a bird, I would sneak off to avoid being hunted so intensely by a group of potential predators. Also, some people just talk too damned much during what is supposed to be a quiet time.

Well, there I was, drifted off well away from the group that was fixating on finding that one species to the point of not seeing or hearing much else. Meanwhile, ADHD-prone me was listening and looking at anything interesting, including plants and bugs. A bird I’d not noticed before flew a short distance in my peripheral vision, catching my attention. Although it was partly obscured in the foliage, I saw enough to describe only what I saw (without naming any possibilities) to someone else who had separated from the herd. He looked very interested, checked his app, and—yup, it was the very bird the herd was looking so hard for that it never noticed what was going on outside of their bubble!

I guess this is the thing that Yo-Yo Ma urges people to nurture: Beginner’s Mind.


Jimbrown16 … I sympathize with you. We have a lake lot. It has a 600 ft dock out into the water on a lake with limited houses on the lake and not that much lake traffic. At the boat slip on the end of this dock was an aluminum ladder that had been there 30 years. It was stolen this year. There is a "heavy " recycled plastic material bench on the dock. It has been pushed off into the water twice. I’ve found towels left there. We have to lock it to the dock. I walked out there one day and a boat was, from appearances, lining up to come in and dock. Seeing me they turned and anchored a little ways from the dock. I think people just seem to not respect property when there is water nearby.


FIFY. Way to many folks out there with the 5 year olds view of ownership.
If its mine its mine
If I see it and want it its mine
If it is no longer mine and I want it again its mine

Not enough people grew up who ever heard the word NO.
It stinks because I grew up being able to hunt everywhere around me. Of course I asked permission every year even though the owners said I didnt have to. I did it because it was theirs and my father would have kicked my tail if I didnt. If they said no, that was the answer.



People stepping onto shore is a private trespass but a 600 foot dock jutting out into a lake isn’t a public trespass? The laws seem a bit skewed in that regard.

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600’ is some dock.

That’s a looooooong way to go to find water deep enough to float a boat.

Depends on the state and lake. In Michigan, owners of waterfront property on inland lakes have exclusive possession and use of the bank and shore as well as owning the bottomlands to the middle of the lake. These riparian laws apply only to Michigan inland lakes and streams, not the Great Lakes.

Yes, a 600 foot dock sure is a biggie. Maybe overstreet has a superyacht? Or maybe he added one too many zeros?

That would make more sense I guess if it was a privately owned lake and a 60 foot dock.

The dock extends from the grass uplands, out through a cyprus forest/wetlands, to inshore lilly pads and various plants to water deep enough to float a rather old 19ft inboard ski boat. Maybe two feet. It depends upon how much rain has fallen recently. I built a kayak/canoe launch platform along the “walk way” out to the dock. It is a hold over from an earlier time when wife’s late husband was into bare foot water skiing. (not this guy)

She is standing about halfway out where the forest stops and the lake begins. Full moon riseing.

A 600 ft dock is not unusual down here if Florida. It is typical on lakes and the St Johns river. This lake is 2 miles across and only maybe 20ft deep in the middle.

This is a little farther back…

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PS…after a tropical storm. Water can be waist high above the dock.

You’re lucky to be able to leave it in year 'round.

Very nice

If I have land along a waterway, and the land along the waterway along my land is to allow public access, I have no problem with canoeists setting up a picnic along the bank. I personally would feel good about that. If the public has a right to trap along the waterway, then they have a right to trap, although I imagine there are rules about endangering the public. Shorelines are an unfortunate place for intolerant individuals to own land or perhaps for insecure or scared individuals to own land. For some, I’m sure it’s best to isolate from public access areas in a meaningfully secure way. I lived along the intracoastal waterway for a couple of years. I understood that the public had access pretty much right up to the house, and I felt that was good. How you feel about strangers along your property should dictate where you choose to buy or maintain property, not whether or not the public retains access along waterways.

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Unfortunately where people go trash and damage follows. Leave no trace.