Maine high court won't reconsider Harpswell beach access decision

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HARPSWELL —  The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has denied a request to reconsider its July 19 ruling removing an easement to Cedar Beach.

The Aug. 23 decision marks a clear end of the road for easement proponents, who have no remaining legal path forward.

The grassroots group Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters since 2012 has used the courts to fight for a prescriptive easement on the only access road to the popular Bailey Island beach.

When the high court vacated a lower court ruling that granted an easement last month, the group filed a motion for reconsideration. It sought to reverse the decision despite the fact that the owner of the road, Betsy Atkins, said she would allow the public to access the beach without an easement.

Mike Helfgott, CB/CIS president, said he was “extremely disappointed” the court would not reconsider its ruling “because we were really certain (it) made two errors.”

David Bertoni, the Lewiston-based attorney representing the group, argued in the motion that the justices based their decision on a set of incorrect facts. He also confirmed on the day of the filing that the motion was the last remaining legal option available to his clients.

But Helfgott said in an interview Monday said CB/CIS is “not ducking low and going home,” and would continue to function. He also said the group would publish a statement to educate the public about proper behavior and etiquette at Cedar Beach, which remains open to the public at Atkins’ discretion.

He said CB/CIS hopes to make beach-goers “perfect stewards of the beach and the land,” and reduce the possibility that Atkins will revoke her permission to let the public use the road. 

Helfgott said the group may also recruit volunteers to monitor behavior on the beach. Volunteers would supplement a monitor the town already sends to enforce beach rules, which are posted on signs along the access road.

Community reactions to the court’s decision – both the July 19 ruling and the denied motion for reconsideration – have been mixed, according to Helfgott. “Some people are jaded,” he said, and angry at Atkins and the courts.

On the other hand, some people feel perfectly secure after Atkins’ gave permission to use the road, which he conceded was “a very nice offer.”

Helfgott said Atkins’ acquiescence surprised him when he initially learned of it, adding, “perhaps there are other surprises in our future” when it comes to finding a more permanent way of securing access to the road.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 orcferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

 

Rules posted on the access road to Cedar Beach on Bailey Island in Harpswell.

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Reporter on the Brunswick/Harpswell beat. Proud Bowdoin grad that you can find reporting on municipal, school, and community news, or inside the many coffee and sandwich shops around the Midcoast. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100.