Cedar Beach access advocates ask Harpswell for $110K

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HARPSWELL — The group that fought a lengthy court battle for public use of a private road that accesses a Bailey Island beach is asking the town to pay $110,000 to cover some of the group’s legal costs.

In a Nov. 21 letter, the board of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters asked the Board of Selectmen to authorize a Town Meeting warrant item to issue $110,000 in bonds to repay their group. 

In its letter, CB/CIS said it has so far incurred $190,000 in legal expenses and expects to spend at least $220,000 to continue litigating over public access to the road that leads to Cedar Beach. 

Selectmen are expected to consider the group’s request at their Dec. 3 meeting. 

Property owners cut off access to Cedar Beach, also called Robinhood Beach, and the narrow, dirt road leading to it in 2011. That sparked an effort to reclaim the public’s traditional use of the area. 

CB/CIS was formed in 2012, and ended up suing two landowners to obtain a public easement. 

Public access to the beach was negotiated through an easement agreement ratified by Harpswell voters last March. But the owners of the road, Charles and Sally Abrahamson, and Betsy Atkins, a neighbor who purchased the road in July, fought back and took the case to court.

A trial was held in May, and Superior Court Justice Nancy Mills ruled in September that a public easement existed on the road.

While Atkins’ attorneys have previously stated that they intend to appeal the case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, motions to clarify the type of vehicles allowed to access the property are still pending. 

Voters in March 2013 approved paying $220,000 to gain access to Cedar Beach, but that authorization runs out at the end of this year. CB/CIS is not asking for any of that funding.

The Dec. 3 meeting is at 6 p.m. at the town office. 

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter @mcguiremidcoast.