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Deadline nears for Harpswell beach access talks

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Deadline nears for Harpswell beach access talks

HARPSWELL — As an important deadline approaches, advocates for reopening access to Robinhood Beach, sometimes called Cedar Beach, hope the Board of Selectmen will make their dream a reality.

Members of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters came out to the board's June 13 meeting to urge selectmen to resolve access issues before the end of the month. They fear missing the deadline could jeopardize the overall effort.

"We need to have some sort of resolution ... so we can complete the path of access to the beach," CB/CIS President Michael Helfgott said. "... We ought to think it should happen in June."

Board Chairwoman Elinor Multer said selectmen have been negotiating with Jonathan and Rachel Aspatore, who own a parcel of land that connects Cedar Beach Road to the beach, since late May.

An agreement with the Aspatores is seen as the last step needed to reopen access to beach, which was originally closed in 2011 by Charles and Sally Abrahamson, owners of a private road that leads to the connecting parcel.

CB/CIS has already negotiated a tentative agreement with the Abrahamsons for a public easement over the private section of Cedar Beach Road, but the agreement is contingent on the group reaching an accord with the Aspatores before the end of June.

"I'd like to tell you that the selectmen would all like to open that beach," Multer said. "Cross your fingers for us; we will need everyone's good wishes."

She said the selectmen hope to reach an agreement "in the near future."

The Board of Selectmen met in executive session on June 14 "to discuss the acquisition of public access easements" for Cedar Beach Road and Robinhood Beach, and they're expected to meet again in executive session Friday, June 21.

Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said the purpose of the meetings is to discuss "terms and conditions of a potential public access easement" for the Aspatores' parcel of land, but couldn't provide any more details.

The town's calendar indicates the selectmen will meet with their attorney before discussing the potential agreement.

Neither Multer nor Eiane could say whether board action is expected to happen after Friday's executive session.

"I'm not certain that I know at this point," Eiane said. "It's hard for me to anticipate."

CB/CIS had been negotiating with the Aspatores over terms of use for Robinhood Beach in exchange for open access, but Helfgott said the family's terms have been far too restrictive for an agreement to be reached so far.

"This is not the way you set up a friendly place to have fun," Helfgott said last week. "... We're not inclined to meet them where they want us to meet them."

A quit-claim deed for the Aspatores' parcel of land, referred to as Lot 164, indicates an easement for residents of Harpswell exists over the connecting land between the road and beach.

The deed was granted to the the Aspatores in February 2006 by the previous owners, Ralph Goodwin III, John Goodwin and Nancy Ramage, and a family trust for Edith Goodwin.

According to the deed, an easement exists on Lot 164  for residents of Harpswell residents traveling by foot for recreational uses "including, but not limited to, picnicking, sunbathing and fishing."

Helfgott said last week that the deed's mention of an easement proves that there is a right of access to Robinhood Beach. If negotiations aren't successful, he said, CB/CIS may consider litigation.

Judy Metcalf, an attorney who represents the Aspatores, did not respond to several requests for comment.

Martin Eistenstein, an attorney who represents CB/CIS, was one of the advocates who urged the Board of Selectmen to continue their negotiations with the Aspatores, though he did not return subsequent requests for comment.

"The expiration period is here and we're confronted with that," Eisenstein said during the meeting. "We're about at the 10-yard line and we're looking to the selectmen as the town administrator has indicated to help us get to the goal line, and that comes down to a negotiation with the owners of Lot 164."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.