Cape Elizabeth beach lease talks continue, with another deadline on horizon

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CAPE ELIZABETH — State lawmakers passed a supplemental budget last week and removed language seen as restrictive to the Crescent Beach State Park lease negotiations.

Now, the state and corporation that owns most of the land must agree on the financial details.

The budget allows the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation to complete a lease for the park with the Sprague Corp. without first receiving legislative approval. This freedom was seen as a key to allow the state to continue to operate the park.

While it’s still unknown if a deal will be reached, Seth Sprague, president of Sprague Corp., said he is continuing to meet with department officials and hopes to reach an agreement by the April 24 deadline.

“We’re both thinking this is going to be successful,” Sprague said Wednesday. “We’re working on it and expecting to make that deadline.”

The cost of the lease is the next step in the process, which is what stalled the process last summer.

The state’s previous 50-year lease, signed for $1 in 1960, expired in 2010. Since then, the state has paid $10,000 annually for one-year extensions.

Sprague Corp. owns 100 acres of the 187-acre park, including the entrance, toll booth and most of the parking lot.

It’s still not clear how much the state will pay to extend the lease, but it will be more than past leases, Sprague said previously.

How a more expensive lease would affect the operation of the park, it’s visitor fees and staffing is also still unknown.

Early in the lease negotiations last year, the state indicated it wanted to buy the land from Sprague, but the company was not interested in selling.

Although the state didn’t assess the property at that time, a town assessment valued the property at about $8 million. 

State officials see the park as an essential piece in the state park system. Because of its popularity – more than 110,000 visitors a year – it is one of the largest revenue-generating parks in the state and plays a crucial role in funding the $7 million state park general fund.

Pulling that revenue from the state park system could jeopardize all parks in the state, officials said previously.

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.