11 • 18 • 2009
Maine Beach Access Litigation
The Maine Chapter worked to protect the rights of public beach access in the landmark Goose Rocks Beach case.
In a state where less than 10% of the vast coastline is publicly owned, it is paramount that the Maine Chapter remain vigilant in its fight for public beach access rights.
The Chapter engaged in litigation from 2009 until October 2019 alongside the State and the Town of Kennebunkport, regarding public access at Goose Rocks Beach (Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport). The Maine Law Court ruled in February 2014 on the side of private property owners as the case relates to prescriptive easements but they failed to issue an opinion on Surfrider's issues, relating to the public’s right of access via the Public Trust Doctrine and the Colonial Ordinance of 1647.
The Town of Kennebunkport sent a letter to Justice Horton in 2015, asking if he would re-engage the parties in formal settlement negotiations/mediation. However, in a testament to its unwavering position of rejecting public access to the ocean, counsel for the beachfront property owners wrote Justice Horton back and told him mediation would be a waste of time, and that beachfront property owners won’t participate.
Both sides submitted letters asking for a court scheduling conference as soon as possible; at long last, on April 6, 2018 a final judgment was entered that the Town owns the Beach, with minor exception. A big step forward for public beach access in Maine!!
As was anticipated, an appeal was filed, and the Maine Law Court heard arguments on May 15, 2019. Catch our blog about hearing outcomes.
On October 3, 2019, the court issued its ruling affirming the trial court's decision that in this one specific case the beach at Goose Rocks is in fact owned by the Town and held in the public trust for public access for ALL people! Check out this Coastal Blog for more in depth analysis of the ruling and its future implications for access in Maine. While the Goose Rocks Beach case may not have broad statewide implications, the grantor to the town of Kennebunkport was the grantor of land to most of the southern to midcoast of Maine, and so this decision stands to impact future access litigation in that spatial area.
The best way to support our Chapter's work in this and other public beach access campaigns is to become a supporting member. You can also join our email list, like our Facebook page, and COME TO OUR MEETINGS & EVENTS!