No Pay to Play Ordinance in York!

Victory | January 03 2017

Beach Access

In the end of 2016, the Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter successfully worked to help stop an ill-conceived ordinance that the York Harbor Board was deliberating, which would have initiated a fee structure for the public and commercial users to gain access the York River with "paddlecraft," including standup paddleboards, surfboards and kayaks.

Limited parking and perceived congestion on the water prompted the proposal, which some on the Board believed would aid in improving public safety and access by limiting the numbers of recreational users on the water. What's troubling is that the proposal sought to achieve these ends by establishing a fee structure that would have made it more difficult for financially challenged families and others to access and enjoy York's waterways.

A hearing was held on December 7, 2016, where voices across the issue were heard.

The Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter caught wind of the situation after the hearing, and promptly issued a call to action, asking the Harbor Board to consider alternatives. Namely, we recommended that if limiting the numbers of recreational users is deemed critical, that the town work to establish a first come, first serve policy with a cap on the number of craft in the water at a given time, for the most highly trafficked times of year, but not impose a fee for public use. The public could also be encouraged to launch at different locations along the river, with the creation of a rackcard that includes a map of public access points.

Second, we acknowledged that the Surfrider Foundation supports our local, eco-friendly small businesses who help teach people more ways to love recreating on the water through rentals, camps and lessons, which is vital toward creating stewards of the waterways. We also firmly believe that providing rentals of non-motorized paddlecraft for visitors (and locals who cannot afford to purchase their own or are just learning) is important for fostering the warm and friendly atmosphere of York that encourages tourism, our leading economic driver. Attempts to discourage visitation of people seeking to enjoy York's most valuable resources - the waterways - and prohibitive fee structures for our local businesses are both detrimental to the community, the economy and small businesses who rely upon tourists to thrive. We asked the Board to consider alternatives. The proposal under consideration was troublesome, as it included a cost-prohibitive fee of $86 per commercial craft, which is much more than the rental of a SUP or kayak and would be detrimental to commercial ocean industry leaders who help visitors to York enjoy their stays.

Because the Surfrider Foundation believes that public access should be prioritized over commercial use of a public resource, however, the Maine Chapter did concede that it would consider supporting a permit and fee policy for commercial use, so long as that policy was reasonable and crafted in collaboration with York's affected business owners, interested citizens of York, and other affected recreational users.

Many of the local businesses encourage stewardship of the waterways, and work with our chapter on beach and river cleanups, plastics mitigation, and coastal preservation campaigns. We feel that this plays an important role in keeping York's waterways, ocean, waves and beaches healthy and vibrant, and is important to maintain.

We are happy to announce that the York Harbor Board decided not to pursue the ordinance as it was structured, at this time, and instead to gather more data on use of the waterways prior to advancing any future ordinance.

Thanks to all who took action to help protect access!

To best support our work in Maine, please join or renew your Surfrider Foundation membership and join us for an upcoming event!

Beach Access

Our beaches mean so much to us. They are where we live, where we work, and where we come to play. Our beaches are the entryway to our ocean and we believe that beaches should be accessible to everyone. This is why our network of staff experts, volunteers, and members are determined to keep our beaches accessible for all to enjoy.

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