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Scarborough panel seeks parking ban at Higgins Beach

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Scarborough panel seeks parking ban at Higgins Beach

SCARBOROUGH — Public parking longer than 30 minutes at Higgins Beach may be banned year-round if a committee recommendation is approved by the Town Council.

The ad hoc Higgins Beach Committee will recommend at a council meeting next week that the town institute a parking ban on any street accessed by Ocean Avenue, except between Oct. 1 and April 15, when 30-minute parking would be allowed.

Currently, beach parking is not allowed in the summer, but unrestricted parking is available during the off season. It is frequently utilized by surfers and the occasional dog walker or beach stroller.

"This is the one time in the season people who can't afford beach-front property can use the beach," said Iver Carlsen, a surfer who lives on Ocean Avenue.

Carlsen, who was a member of the committee and is also a candidate for Town Council, said he voted against the parking-ban recommendation.

"Higgins Beach already has the most restrictive parking in Scarborough," he said.

Unrestricted parking along Bayside Avenue is allowed from Oct. 1 through April 1, while at all other beaches in Scarborough, parking along the beach is allowed Sept. 15 through May 1.

All of the committee members who voted in favor of the parking ban either did not return requests for comment or asked not to comment until after the recommendation is officially made on Nov. 3.

"I want to see a middle-of-the-road compromise," said Councilor Judy Roy, who is the council liaison to the committee and who voted against the parking restriction. "I want to see seven spaces available year-round and for more than 30 minutes."

In addition to the parking ban, the committee will recommend the parking spaces beside the Higgins Beach Inn be available exclusively to the inn year-round for no charge.

The Higgins Beach Inn is now closed for the season, however a petition was filed with the committee, signed by 90 people, requesting that the inn have exclusive access to those spaces.

"I don't think the town should give up ownership after what happened at Pine Point," Carlsen said, referring to the town's land swap with the Lighthouse Motel, which eliminated several parking spaces often utilized by surfers.

Carlsen said one of the main complaints expressed by homeowners in the area was that the surfers would get undressed and into their wetsuits beside their cars and expose themselves in the process.

"That's indecent exposure and there's already a law about that," Carlsen said.

Janice Parente, chairwoman of the local chapter of the Surfriders Foundation, said some Higgins Beach property owners are "bullies" who "embellish their stories so much."

Parente said most surfers, who utilize the beach two or three times a month when waves are large enough, are very respectful of property rights and that it's homeowners who are harassing the surfers.

"They came down and were taking pictures of all of us," she said. "It's an absurd situation."

After the committee makes its presentation to the council on Nov. 3, there will likely be a council discussion. Then, if the council wants to adopt any recommendations that require ordinance changes, it will send those changes to the Ordinance Committee and schedule public hearings.

"I understand their frustrations, but it's usually pretty quiet and lonely down here during the off season," Carlsen said. "And this is slowly eroding people's access to the public beach."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net