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Another Victory for Beach Access in Maine!

October 21 2012 | Beach Access, Legal,
by Angela Howe

Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine will be kept open to the public per a ruling by the State of Maine Superior Court on October 16, 2012.  In Robert F. Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport, Justice G. Arthur Brennan ruled against 29 beach-front owners who sought to claim ownership of the beach to the low water mark. Surfrider Foundation entered the case as an amicus party (or "friend of the court") to strengthen the arguments for public beach access.

Goose Rocks Beach is a two-mile stretch of sandy beach lying between the Batson River and Little River in Kennebunkport, Maine.  While it is only a mere drop in the bucket of the entire 5,500-mile coastline of Maine, this is a very popular place for public enjoyment of the beach and recreation along the state's coastline.  There are at least 5 perpendicular accessways spread across this beachfront.

The trial in this case lasted from August 20th until September 6th of this year, with 66 witnesses providing testimony in trial.  The bulk of the witnesses demonstrated that for decades the beach had been open to the public and used for ocean-based activities, such as boating, kayaking, surfing and snorkeling.  The State of Maine also intervened in the case to ensure that the case law from McGarvey v. Wittredge that was recently tried at the Maine Supreme Court would be upheld, including the proper scope of the Public Trust Doctrine, which provides for the public's right to enjoy the beach.  Ultimately, the court found that since the 1800s people used Goose Rocks Beach for a full range of recreational activities, including walking, swimming, sun bathing an a variety of beach related games.  

The Court ruled for Judgment for the Town as established easements by prescription and custom for general recreational activities on the entirety of Goose Rocks Beach, both wet and dry sand.  It also found that the public has a right under the Public Trust Doctrine to use the inter-tidal zone at Goose Rocks Beach for recreational ocean-based activities.

"I think the decision recognizes that for generations people have shared this resource as a community and they've done so in harmony," said Town Manager Larry Mead.  Unfortunately, there is an appeal of this case expected to be brought by the beach-front property owners.

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