2017-02-17 / Front Page

Access deal still sought

Action on Cedar Beach possible at Town Meeting
BY NATHAN STROUT
Times Record Staff

HARPSWELL

Selectmen on Thursday made their first public statement regarding attempts to secure public access to Cedar Beach.

“As many of you may know, the board has been working with the owner of the Cedar Beach Road in hopes of gaining some written understanding and use of that road to traverse to be able to get to Cedar Beach and Cedar Island, of which the town holds easements of,” said Chairman Richard Daniel.

The fight for access to the beach has been ongoing since 2011, when Charles and Sally Abrahamson attempted to block a path to the beach that went through their private property. A group of Harpswell residents formed Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters, Inc. and brought the Abrahamsons to court to ensure legal access to the beach over the pathway in question, which had been used by community members for decades.

The lawsuit continued, with some funding from the town, even after the property in question was sold to Betsy Atkins through her real estate company, Gables Real Estate LLC. In 2016, the case wound up before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and in July the court ruled against Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters.

Following that ruling, Atkins released a statement through her lawyer that she would allow access to the beach via the path on her property indefinitely. Since that time, however, selectmen have held a number of executive sessions to hammer out a way to ensure access to the beach for the community.

At Thursday’s meeting, selectmen introduced a placeholder article to the draft warrant for the annual Town Meeting in anticipation of an agreement being reached in the coming days. Details of that agreement have not yet been finalized or released publicly.

“We’d characterize that we’re very close to some wording that we hope will be going to town meeting, and we have a placeholder for that,” said Daniel. “It’s subject to possible change or even taking off (of the warrant).”

The draft article released Thursday indicates that the town is seeking a license agreement for residents and taxpaying nonresidents and their guests to have access to the beach over property owned by Gables Real Estate LLC. The draft would also grant the town the right of first refusal to the Cedar Beach Road property, although the terms and conditions of that agreement have not been finalized or made public.

Michael Helfgott, president of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters, commended the board for its efforts to gain permanent public access to the beach.

“It would be great to really come to the realization of the town being able to get to the end of the road and to the easement and utilize the beach, and I think that’s what we’re all working for,” said Helfgott.

nstrout@timesrecord.com

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